Ingrained Biases

School is back in session and the formidable task  begins of coordinating 5 kids, 13 drivers (1 kid drives) and 2 cars.  One of parents, and a good friend, let’s call him Joe, created a google doc spreadsheet for us (10 parents plus 1 family’s nanny & housekeeper) to organize driving.

As you can imagine, this was not fun or easy.  We were happy with our previous season’s arrangement with one of the families for our 2 boys.  My solution was keep what we had, adding 1 more kid who lived right by both of our families, and let the rest work it out.  We had 6 drivers for 3 boys and they had 6 drivers for 2 boys.

[caption id="attachment_7187" align="alignright" width="218"] Take the Middle Path[/caption]

My husband noted how Joe and my individual socio-economic-political beliefs deeply influenced basic decision-making, like carpooling!  Joe always strives to engage the collective, achieve consensus and make everyone feel his or her input mattered.

I try to be inclusive and gain consensus, but sometimes you need to just get things done because the time cost for consensus is too high relative to the value.  For this carpooling saga, I was not willing to spend the time and effort of multiple emails and google doc’ing to work this out.  We had a plan that had worked, no solution could include everyone, so just get on it with.

So what’s the leadership lesson here? Our beliefs are so ingrained we don’t always notice how they affect our decisions - we need to balance what we know works with what we don’t know, or think, could work.  We need to reflect and question ourselves on why we are doing the way we are doing.

As leaders, we (co-)create the vision for the organization, provide direction and clear, and clearly communicate, the path forward.  It is our job to help our people see how what they do, and who they are, positively impact the vision as well as what’s in it for them.  This involves times when agreement and consensus are not just nice to have, but required.

This also involves times when a decision needs to be made, and we need to move on.  A wise leader discerns the difference, acts accordingly, and communicates why.  A wise leader knows him or herself well enough to know how deeply ingrained beliefs both illuminate and cloud simple to complex decision-making.

As we adjust to the new demands on and types of leadership for the 21st Century, we see the predominance of command-and-control ebbing.  This doesn’t mean the only leadership style is now collaborative and consensus-driven.  It is a balance.  It’s “And/Both”, not “Either/Or”.  American is a country more comfortable with going between extremes than in finding a balance.  Just look at this election – there is no ‘middle ground’.

Our opportunity as leaders is just this – to find the middle ground – to know when to simply decide and when to gain consensus, when to lead and when to get out of the way.  And hopefully, but learning and modeling this, we can teach those around us…who can teach others.

Photo © freshidea -


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