Thinking Again And Leadership

Thinking like a scientist can help to be a great leader.

My students often come into class with set opinions. Many have never considered where those opinions formed or how socialization, and the influence of others, impacted their thinking. And many of them have a hard time letting go of their preconceived notions and biases.

So it is my job to teach them to think like a scientist. To recognize cognitive bias, set opinions, and core ideas. And to question the reality they believe as “true.”

It’s my job to shine a light on their choices and how they engage the world around them. Ask if they prefer to keep set opinions that “feel right” or develop a Rethinking Cycle that accepts curiosity, learning, and growth.

We discuss how set beliefs negatively impact our ability to effectively engage politics – the sphere of clashing ideas – in the home, the workplace, and in national debates.

We discuss how rethinking opinions and beliefs creates hypotheses that should be revised based on incoming data. And that people who refuse to do so build up an Overconfidence Cycle.

We reinforce confidence in defending ideas but learn to break the overconfidence cycle. We establish a rethinking cycles to increase flexibility and develop method for adapting.

And we discuss the many skills they need to develop as they grow in their leadership.

Why?

Because research suggests that leaders unwilling to learn and engage inquisitiveness are less likely to develop the ability to grow in their leadership. They will hold on to their set opinions and ways.

Why?

Cartoonish photo of Dr. D. sitting in his chair, right arm outstretched fingers extended dramatically, talking about Leadership Skills. A "Short list of Skills" is on the board behind him.
Dr. D. Lecturing about how skills can help build leadership potential.

Because they will see any adaptation of their ideas and opinions as a moral weakness rather than intellectual integrity. They will see it as admitting defeat rather than a step towards a greater truth. And because they are afraid to be seen as flip-flopping in response to the carrots and sticks – or public opinion – rather than being open to the possibility others will perceive the change as an act of courage in the face of clear, sharp, logic and stronger, more reliable, and more extensive data.

Bold leaders think like scientists. And they develop many of the skills that scientists use – active listening, inquisitiveness, trial and error, patience, integrity, accountability, and humility – to engage with their followers.

And they acknowledge that their plans are theory, their understanding of feedback is based on hypotheses, and any minimum viable product or project is an experiment that will require adaptation over time.

So, why should you think like a scientist?

Because you will learn to think again, and again, and again – and your will grow as a leader, team member, and political power in your chosen sphere of influence.

That is one underlying message in Think Again by Adam Grant.

So, what’s more important to you – “being right” or “feeling right” as a leader?