Leadership Perspectives: What’s Your Reality?

I’ve been writing about leadership perspectives and the three distinct ways leaders fail to use information efficiently. The third way is not wanting to see the truth.

We’ve all seen oversights caused by seemingly innocent and unintentional thinking by leaders. Those caused by self-serving motives deservedly draw more criticism. Emotional blind spots are problematic, but rejecting unfavorable data is inexcusable.

Emotional blind spots prevent leaders from seeing the truth. For example, leaders with a predetermined outcome in mind who believe everything must go their way include only the information that supports their position, overlooking anything to the contrary.

Pride also impacts perception. Some leaders think they have nothing left to learn. Additional information isn’t required because they know it all and are convinced they’re right. Overconfidence or conceit ruins their judgment.

A seasoned sales director, for example, may push aside the latest customer price target information, boasting of his successful track record. He insists his charm and negotiating skills will close the deal. Unfortunately, all the good-ol’ boys are gone, and his customers are now sharp, methodical number crunchers who can outthink him.

Taken to an extreme, a prideful bias becomes a conflict of interest. Leaders make decisions to benefit themselves, either directly or indirectly, at the expense of colleagues or the organization itself. This behavior is typically rooted in fear of failure.

Conflicted leaders are extremely difficult to work with. The challenge increases with leaders who refuse to admit mistakes and intentionally disregard data that damage their position or self-esteem. Leaders most interested in saving face cause catastrophic problems: failed projects, staff resentment and disengagement, and declining team performance.

Some CEOs are known for inflating their reputations by acknowledging only positive achievements as they prepare to face their board of directors. Information that disfavors their leadership is cast aside.

In The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See (Simon & Schuster, 2015), Max H. Bazerman, PhD, suggest that leaders who request assistance from a reliable colleague, mentor or executive coach will minimize prideful bias. When this topic comes up with my coaching clients, we discuss the importance of feedback from someone who monitors your style and behaviors in order to recognize prideful tendencies and minimize the roadblocks they cause in decision-making.

Better observation skills lead to improved insights, decisions and results. You have only one opportunity to get something right the first time. Make it happen by seeing as much as you can.

What do you think? What’s your reality? How do you consistently and objectively see the truth? You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here, or on LinkedIn.

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