Does Your Leadership Build Bridges or Walls?

Does Your Leadership Build Bridges or Walls?

When you look at this picture what do you see? Do you see the rabbit or the duck? My guess is that you are able to see both, but I bet you saw one picture more quickly than the other. Even though you know there are two pictures in one, I bet you see one more clearly. This would be an example of a “bias.” A bias is your preference or your default point of view. It’s what you see first and what you see the clearest.

Similarly, with most of the tensions you face as a leader you will have a bias towards one side over the other.  For common example:

Manage Cost or Maintain Quality

Embrace Change or Preserve Stability

Give Freedom or Hold Accountable

Short Term or Long Term

Planning or Action

Having a bias isn’t a bad thing – in fact, it can be a positive thing. However, your bias is either working for you or against you.  If you possess an “either/or” mindset, it can build divisive walls between team members who see things differently.  If you have a “both/and” mindset, it can provide your team with a unique point of view that can connect with other diverse perspectives for a full, more accurate picture.

Here are two steps to having a “both/and” mindset so you can leverage your bias:

STEP #1 – Be Confident AND Humble

Confidence comes from knowing that you possess a unique point of view, potentially a perspective that no one else on the team fully sees or understands.  You have a responsibility to bring this perspective to your team.  Humility comes from knowing that there is often a different—yet equally true— point of view. This diverse point of view is one that you might not be able to see clearly, or even see at all, without the help of others.

STEP #2 – Embrace Your Opposite

All humans have what is called a “confirmation bias.”  This means that we search out people and information that affirms our existing beliefs.  Confirmation bias is why you tend to watch news sources and “like” things on social media that align with your political perspectives. It feels good to be affirmed!  But when it comes to your biases at work, you need to search out a person with the opposite point of view.  A person who shares the same mission but often has different biases than yours.  By searching out this perspective, you’ll find that you don’t have to exchangeyour viewpoint for the other, but instead, each viewpoint can be expanded to see the big picture.

As a leader who is both confident and humble, and who has learned to embrace your opposite, your bias can be a healthy and powerful tool.  You will become to be a leader who is known for building unifying bridges, not dividing walls.


Tim Arnold is passionate about helping people understand the chronic issues that limit leadership and teamwork, so they can thrive.  He is the author of The Power of Healthy Tension and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can overcome chronic issues and conflicting values.

Tim Arnold

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