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Leadership Thought #291 – Don’t Fall in Love with Your Own Opinions

January 26, 2012

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There is nothing wrong with having strong opinions but always remember this doesn’t mean you are right.  There is a difference between a fact-based opinion and an experiential opinion.  In one case you are using hard facts and objective data to state your position.  In the other case, you are relying more on subjective experience and personal beliefs to make your point.  The dangerous thing about experiential opinions is that they are grounded solely on the personal filters of the advocate.  They are also based on a singular and usually stunted view of reality.  Being louder and more passionate about something will certainly garner attention, however, once again this doesn’t mean you are right and very often means you are rude, close-minded, and/or a poor listener.

In all types of relationships, you can either fight fairly or fight dirty.  When I observe someone getting personally critical of another person and/or talking over them rather than focusing on the topic at hand, I assume they want to fight dirty because they know they have a weaker position (or are simply intellectually lazy).  Leaders can’t afford to have their decisions overly laced with or influenced by their own or others’ strong opinions.  Reality has a way of overcoming obstinacy.  At a minimum, professional reputation is a function of how you are perceived to think and make decisions, as well as how you comport yourself.  Power may provide you with the platform to be self-righteous, but these same actions hinder your ability to create true followership and garner long-term support.  Have you ever noticed how the student in the classroom who thinks they are the smartest person in the room rarely is (and everyone else comes to this conclusion early on)?

Unfortunately, America is becoming a country that is increasingly governed by strong opinions and ideology rather than empirical evidence and collective self-interest.  It has always been much easier to divide people instead of uniting them.  Most of us would rather validate what we already believe than accept a contrary point of view.   We are great at preparing to talk but terrible at active listening. Attacking someone else’s position is an easy trap to fall into.  What we fail to realize is that progress is a direct result of challenging the status quo and opening our minds to innovative ideas and concepts.  As stated in many other blogs, no one person or group of people has the market cornered on clever ideas. They just think they do. Once you believe you know it all, please give the reigns of power to someone else.

Of course, it’s important to be decisive but make sure you are committed to making the right decision not just doing what is intellectually convenient or plays to your own personal prejudices and/or vulnerabilities.  If you fall in love with your own opinions, you limit your potential for results.  You also hinder your ability to build strong personal and professional relationships.