Great leadership is as unbiased as possible. In order to demonstrate that, we need to recognize our own biases. I’m willing to bet you didn’t think you had any. I know I do. How do we manage that?
What do you mean I’m biased?!
I have yet to meet a leader without bias. That doesn’t mean they let bias get in their way or cause tension and harm for others.
We all view the different world through different lenses. Your lens is a filter based on your individual life experience. Some examples may be, and these are only a few:
The combination of your life experiences create personal bias. What we do with them makes a difference and we need to recognize how those biases change as we learn and grow. This directly affects our leadership whether it’s conscious or unconscious. Great leadership pays attention to the tension.
What does where you were born have to do with anything? Consider someone born in a very cold climate like northern Canada. When you live somewhere that it’s difficult to grow fruits and vegetables, it’s likely your diet will contain a lot more fish and meat. Your body will likely need more food to assist with being in a more physical environment and help you stay warm. You will develop a bias to a higher protein diet. Move to Mexico and you’ll have a harder time finding meat. I suspect you will think they are crazy for some of the things they eat. That’s a bias.
With our global community today, we are exposed to many different cultures. Some are political based. Some may be more affected by faith and physical environment. For example, my experience in Greece and Italy many years ago, was they place much more value on home and family than business or work. Could this be related to a great disparity between rich and poor? When people come here from other countries, I believe we are perceived as greedy money worshipers. That’s a bias, and maybe one of my own.
We are lucky in North America that we have a much larger much larger middle class but there are definitely multiple divisions here and I believe we underestimate how that affects bias. I was driving in the neighbourhood where I grew up when my son asked “Dad, is this the ghetto?”. When I was growing up there, I never saw it that way and actually had a few discussions with my wife about it not being a bad neighbourhood. Thinking back, there were multiple gangs, vandalism and times when most people wouldn’t even consider walking some of those streets late at night. Because of where he grew up, he would not likely consider that neighbourhood for his kids. He has a bias.
Where we raised our children is a very middle class neighbourhood. Their experience here means they expect a little more out of life. They see more opportunity. They don’t understand someone from a neighbourhood like where I grew up may not see the same opportunities because they believe they have more obstacles. That’s a bias.
Then there’s the rich. Some are born into wealth, others make their own. Each has a different perception of how the world works. Those born into wealth are less likely to relate to the difficulties that those in poorer families face in trying to change their life circumstances. People who create their own wealth have a harder time relating to someone who can’t see themselves becoming wealthier. Again, biases.
This is a tough topic and I hope I don’t offend anyone here. My observations are through my own filters and bias. Be kind with your words and help me learn so that I can change. Here it goes.
Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, Buddhist and Hindu are the only faiths that I have ever been exposed to and only in limited fashion. I personally am Roman Catholic and that definitely causes bias for me. I work to recognize that affect on my perceptions and decisions every day. My belief is that all have very similar core values and we are brothers and sisters in this life regardless of our recognized faith.
I believe one of the greatest challenges is recognizing that not all people of any faith are perfect. If I were to accept all the stories I read, I wouldn’t trust anyone. I can’t accept that any faith but my own is bad. I heard a friend say one day that Christians should only associate with Christians. I was dumbfounded! How do we develop understanding and remove bias if we never expose ourselves to contradictory evidence? Wow, that was a bias!
Have you ever noticed that someone with a university degree looks down on people with a college degree? A person with college education may look down on someone who never took post secondary education. The level of education of the people you meet can affect how you respond to them. Does your bias cause you to give less credence to the words of people you meet?
Is Your Leadership Unbiased?
We have natural instincts to protect ourselves. As people developers, that extends to protecting those who look to us for guidance. When faced with something we don’t understand, we default to past experience and use that to make a decision. The fault with that strategy is that every situation is unique. Before you let instinct take over, take a second to understand why you feel what you feel.
To ensure your leadership is unbiased, you first need to recognize your own biases. How does this make you react to opposing views and values? Does this cause you to become either defensive or offensive? Why?
Now that you understand your own bias, do a check in with someone you trust. Seek their advice and ask about their bias. You may need multiple trusted advisors in your inner circle to accomplish this. Different backgrounds, faiths and even opposing values can lead you to better understanding of the issues facing you and how to take the next best step.
People are looking to you for unbiased leadership. I know you are a great leader. Do you?
Make it a great day!
P.S. What am I thankful for today? I’m thankful for diversity. I’m thankful for opportunities to grow. I’m thankful for my belief in people.
What are you thankful for today?
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