Ignorance in Leadership
We often need to look deeper and spend more time seeking to understand the less obvious reasons that explain why people ‘do what they do’ and ‘are who they are’ if we genuinely want to support and help them develop, and enhance their contribution. That means getting to genuinely know and understand them, individually, beyond what might seem to be their obvious strengths and weaknesses:
what it is that ‘makes them 'tick'; the experiences they've had, their fears, aspirations, uncertainties, doubts, beliefs, attitudes and deeper motivations
We all stereotype to a lesser or greater extent. It’s not always about obvious differences or perceived traits, sometimes it’s categorising people based on their role, status, performance, a change in behaviour, way of speaking, because they have different beliefs and attitudes to ours, or, even just because we don't like or have been unable to 'connect' with them!
Making it worse, in development programmes we use models and frameworks to help simplify the art and practice of ‘leading’ and managing relationships, which in itself can lead to categorising team members and may result in them being ‘boxed’ according to assumed preferences and/or rules of the models used; they’ve been stereotyped by new theoretical paradigms and over simplified models of application.
A classic example of this is how people are labelled by models such as the MBTI. A model that depending on whom you listen to has have little scientific, but good face, validity’. It relies on self reported data from people who often have poor self-awarness - and who doesn’t like what they say about themselves!
The risk with stereotyping in leadership, even if we don’t consciously realise we do it, is that when someone doesn’t respond as expected or hoped, it’s often viewed negatively and as an indicator of the ‘type’ of person they are, rather than as a starting point for developing deeper understanding and potentially uncovering psychological barriers to change and growth.
When that happens, who’s at fault: us, or the person that was just responding to what we said or did, how we said or did it, or the situation they found themselves in?
The starting point for leading without bias or ignorance of any kind, is a deep and honest understanding of self first, and, a willingness to change or manage the impact our own thinking, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour have, on how we view others and lead.