5 Leadership Mind Traps and How to Navigate Them!

Every once in a while, you come across a book that really gets you “thinking” and maybe even “changing the way you think”. “Unlocking Leadership Mind Traps: How to Thrive in Complexity” by Jennifer Garvey Berger was that book for me.

My first introduction to Jennifer was through an online course I took recently (The Art of Developmental Coaching). Jennifer was one of the instructors and I found her to be very engaging and very deep in her perspectives and facts regarding adult and leadership development.

To quote Jennifer Garvey Berger:

“We are living in this strange, paradoxical time in our world where the massively increasing complexity around us could lead us to grow faster and more compassionately and more together, or it could lead us to get more defensive, closed, hard, and smaller.”

There is no doubt that the world in which we work and live is complex and becoming increasingly more complex. But just as we must deal with the complexity “out there” or external to our selves, we are challenged to understand and deal with the complexity “in here” and internal to our selves.

In Jennifer’s book, she refers to 5 Mind Traps. The premise is that we act as if the world is simple when in fact the world is quite complex. Recognizing these mind traps within our selves helps us to see things through a broader lens and provides us with greater resources for dealing with the actual complexity.

These are the 5 Mind Traps:

  1. Simple Stories – We love our stories. Stories often have a beginning, middle and end and are filled with heroes and villains. Often, we are the hero in the story and the other person is the villain. Our problem-solving nature looks for short cuts and so the story is riddled with our beliefs and bias. But simple stories keep us small and presume a certain outcome based on the past. One way to expand beyond our story is to consider the other person in the story. How might they be considered a hero?
  2. Rightness – Our sense of being “right” enables our decisiveness but on the flip side it can kill curiosity and openness. You may even confuse feeling right with being right. Ask yourself “what do I believe and how can I be wrong?” There are always 2 sides to a situation – exploring the other side is good practice. Make sure you listen carefully to learn rather than to win or fix things.
  3. Agreement – We are programmed to be connected to other people. Agreement fulfills our desire for belonging and connection. Sometimes, we want so much to belong that we down play our difference of opinion. We are oriented to not be socially disconnected because the pain of being left out is experienced the same way as physical pain in the body. To release this mind trap, consider how conflict could serve to deepen a relationship. Or how disagreeing might lead to expanded thinking and ideas.
  4. Control – Our sense of being in control is directly tied to our feeling of being happy. In fact, our being in control and perceived by others as being in control is often equated with good leadership. However, sometimes great leadership requires us to let go of control to enable better outcomes, especially in complexity. Ask yourself: What can I help enable instead of what can I make happen? Or what could enable me/us?
  5. Ego – Our sense of who we are helps us function with purpose. The person we are now is a culmination of our thoughts, experiences, beliefs, to this point in our journey. The problem however, is that we are protective of the person we are being now vs the person we are becoming. We believe we have changed in the past but for some reason probably won’t change much moving forward. This leads us to want to protect the person we think we are. For true personal growth to happen, we need to pay attention to the map of our own development and ask ourselves “who would I like to be next?”

If you’d like some assistance in identifying your own commonly used mind traps and how to navigate your personal and professional development, I’m here to help. Contact me linda@lindacattelan.com or call me at 416-617-0734.

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