CHANGING MINDSETS WITH SUPPORTIVE LEADERSHIP
Supportive Leadership aims at changing mindsets rather than the behavior of others. All our experiences are anchored in the prefrontal cortex, the most complex and most interesting area of the human brain. Here all our social experiences are stored in the form of neural connections that create stabilizing networks. The characteristic feature of all these experiences is that they are always simultaneously cognitive and emotional. And both are connected. That is the main feature of an experience. Experience always means that something is important to me, there always is this fertilizer released in the brain and therefore all experiences are laid down very deeply in the brain. Experiences that are made in similar contexts will be integrated or bundled in the prefrontal cortex, and the result is a certain mindset. This is both cognitive—you can say why—but also emotional - you can feel it at the same time, too.
What we need to change and what the participants in learning environments should develop, is not a certain behavior, not a lot of knowledge, but a certain mindset. And the mindset will be formed by the experiences someone makes. Therefore, it is possible that a person's changes their mindset—but not by pressure, only by invitation, by inspiring, by encouraging novel experiences, which are different from these previous experiences, which made us less creative, narrow and closed. It is our mindset, which controls our behavior. It therefore does not make sense to change only the behavior. Only if someone changes his or her mindset, then new and different behavior becomes possible.
In the past many leaders, university professors, and consultants always tried to change people by trying to influence their behavior. This was behaviorism, sometimes more open, at other times in disguise. But what the new thinking stipulates is that we really need to treat people as individual persons. If we enter into a relationship with people—not as objects who do a certain job—and aim to unfold their potential, if we invite them to experience how beautiful it is to make new experiences together with others, then we might be able to cocreate something. As leaders or educators you have the option, to introduce this new way of thinking and to help them to understand that supportive leadership cannot be taught, but only be experienced.
In our seminar we invite participants to think and talk about one of their most negative relationship memories. Each of these experiences can raise a number of questions: How can we find out from everyday experiences in which contexts we are objectified? How can this be explained? Which pictures or films appear? Which observations do we make? Which feelings arise? How does one get into this? And how does one leave this experience behind? What learning can be accomplished by reflecting on this experience? How can people reflect together and find out together what each of them has learned and how it happened? How can they support one another in these different steps of new learning?
We exchange these reflections in the seminar group and collect the success stories for future reference. We use these experiences to share the participants' learning potential as well as the possibilities of novel learning experiences in the team and we contextualize these processes through specific inputs.
As a next learning environment, the participants are invited to think back to the most positive recent relationship experience: How did this experience happen? Who was there? Who was in the lead and what happened with me opposite her or him? How did we get inspired, encouraged, supported? How and what did others contribute? How and what did I find to like about her or him? How did it happen to discover this? Which learning aspects can be exchanged by reflecting on this second environment?
Changing behavior is no longer enough and it doesn't make sense -changing mindsets follows a new focus. It is never a solution to shout at employees or want to change people but to inspire and engage them to get interested in their own and each other's mindsets and encourage and invite them to become curious in cocreating another kind of relationship together (Lenglachner, 2012). This type of leading makes it necessary to build nourishing relationships with inspiring contacts; fun, humor, and creativity provide energy to go for solutions, believe in success together and develop the self-confidence that we are the right people to deal with a given matter successfully.