Who Are You Leading?WhoAreYouLeading

If you are a leader, what you think of the people you lead will have a huge impact on your leadership with them and in turn your organization. Do you think they are: smart, lazy, energetic, stupid, selfish, faith-filled, reluctant, loyal, trusting, suspicious, other?

We all make judgments and come to some conclusions about people, especially those who are around us all the time. We may think we know them well. We may think that we know their tendencies and how it has affected how we do or do not interact and work with them.

Do we look to help them to grow or have we given up on them? Do we ignore them and what they say or do we listen to them? Do we give them room to change or have we pigeon holed them? What we think or assume about those whom we lead has a huge impact on them and our organizations to our blessing or to our peril. Consider the Ladder of Inference which describes this reality.

The Ladder of Inference was first put forward by organizational psychologist Chris Argyris and used by Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.

What it basically says is that our perceptions, assumptions, conclusions and beliefs shaper our perceptions, assumptions, conclusions and beliefs! It involves a “reflexive loop” that says what we choose to see and what we assume influences how we see the world and ultimately what we choose to do. This “loop” causes us to become self deceived and ever deeper entrenched in our thinking about people and situations. For example: we notice that a board member (Chuck) is always late. We assume that means he doesn’t care (assigning meaning) so we conclude that he would not do well with any assignments or tasks and we decide not to let him take any responsibility at all costs. Along the way whenever we run into this person we are always “noticing” signs and signals that supposedly “confirm” our assumptions about them. (They were late again, they forgot to do a simple task, etc.) So we’ve got them all figured out. Right? Wrong!

We may have been thrown off by what somebody told us about them (a seed of misinformation that set us in the wrong direction) or our own misperception but the results can be disastrous! If we would have suspended our conclusions about them and just talked to Chuck we would have found out that he makes a huge personal sacrifice to even make the meeting in the first place. We would have learned that he is exceptionally committed and passionate about what you are trying to accomplish. And if we would have appropriately harnessed their energy and enthusiasm and passion we would have been light years ahead of where we are now! But instead we let ourselves get all mixed up about what is really true. We let our "reticular activation system" see and perceive and conclude what we expected, even if it was wrong! With the result that the organization stalled not to mention Chuck’s personal development.

What are you assuming about people? What do you really know? Do you believe the “gossip” about people and in disgust use it as an excuse to micromanage or hoard the work or disregard or even abuse people? Stop and ask yourself:

  • What am I assuming or labeling in other people? What affect does it have on me or on my leadership and even upon this organization? (How people work, their joy, how contagious their enthusiasm say a lot about how we affect them and their work and development)
  • What “facts” do I need to double or triple check?
  • What do I need to let go of including my desire to control?
  • How can I be more consistent in my good behaviors so no one can assume something unflattering about me?

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Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, scottgress@me.com or scottgress.com

"Helping leaders be more productive - less controlling"


Leadership and Others

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