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Leadership Thought #304 – Be Wary of Making Assumptions

February 23, 2012

Free Man Making Notes Using Cellphone at Workplace Stock Photo

We all know the danger of rushing to quick judgments or making false assumptions about things, but we continue to do it anyway.  I have heard many speakers talk about the reptilian portion of our brain that is focused solely on survival and keeping us out of harm’s way.  We are hardwired for self-protection.  However, in a world where our day-to-day survival is rarely in question, we need to be careful about allowing the most primal part of our thought process to have too much control.  A knee jerk or gut reaction to stimuli is often not a wise strategy and can end up being problematic.

Thinking can be arduous work. It requires effort and a willingness to fight situational impulses.  At a time when our brain just wants to deal with the instantaneous reality of the here and now, we are asking it to slow down, consider multiple alternatives, and use a contextual filter.    As a leader, you must continually challenge your own assumptions and be open to different perspectives.   Sometimes you need to solicit contrary feedback and view things from many alternative angles.  Too many people practice the “ready, shoot, aim” approach to decision making.  Being proactive does not mean being irresponsible.   You may be trying to hit a moving target and your focus will have to adjust accordingly.

We all reach a point in our careers and lives where we become more confident in our own experience and judgement.  Some of us get to this point far too soon and end up learning some difficult lessons along the way.    There is nothing wrong with self-confidence; however, confident leaders are willing to admit what they don’t know.   They actively seek the advice and counsel of others to supplement their own thought process.

Success requires thoughtful action.  Greatness does not happen in a vacuum.   If you are right, then your conclusions and decisions will stand the test of scrutiny and differing opinions.   Confidence in your own opinions is not a bad thing unless it feeds your ego too strongly, taps into unnecessary fears, is a result of lazy or misinformed thinking, or shrouds a lack of relevant knowledge and experience.  Be wary of jumping to quick conclusions and making rash assumptions.