Escaping Leadership Mindtraps to Thrive in a Complex World

January 28, 2021

EN Sparks Conversation: Escaping Leadership Mindtraps to Thrive in a Complex World

Filling the Gap in Talent Development

Jennifer Garvey Berger from Cultivating Leadership led member companies Accenture, Bayer Aktiengesellschaft, BP p.l.c., Danaher Corporation, Dow Inc., Novartis, Philip Morris Products S.A., and The Proctor & Gamble Corporation in a discussion on how to escape leadership “Mindtraps.”

As humans, we have been honed to simplify data to protect us from being overwhelmed. These shortcuts served us well in a simpler world. But it turns out that these shortcuts are more misleading than helpful as we navigate a more interconnected and dynamic world where we need to interact intentionally with complexity rather than pretending it doesn’t exist. Because of the complexity, our shortcuts have become Mindtraps that lead us astray. We must recognize them and then find creative ways to escape them.


Jennifer outlined the five ways in which leaders become trapped:

  1. Rightness: We are trapped by our capacity to believe that we are right and wired to be certain in those beliefs. When confronting this, ask yourself “What do I believe? And in what ways can I be wrong?”
  2. Simple Stories: We are encultured to see our lives as narratives—to think in terms of heroes and villans—and to fill in the gaps of our memory with what we think is right and wrong. Instead, look at the facts of the present rather than always grasping for the future.
  3. Agreement: Our neurobiology goes to length to feel included in a group and will agree with something, even if we know it is wrong, to feel like a part of our group. The agreement trap prohibits us from making strides in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Instead, create spaces to welcome and encourage difference and use disagreement to expand possibilities.
  4. Control: Control gives us a feeling of safety, even if we know our decisions are not sound. Leaders may fashion conditions which beg outcomes due to their inherent need to manage the future.  Focus on fostering spaces of experimentation and learning, rather than perfection, to escape the control trap.
  5. Ego: We are constantly producing ourselves for each other, imagining ourselves as the star in our stories. The ego is the most difficult trap to escape because it is the most personal. Ask two fundamental questions to avoid ego: Who am I now? and Who do I want to be?

Thank You

The recording with embedded slides is available to Executive Networks members in the EN Resource Library.

If your team is dealing with similar issues or have questions you’d like answered please fill out the form below!

Escaping Leadership Mindtraps to Thrive in a Complex World

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