In my previous essay on “the crisis of expertise”, I not only commented on leadership hubris and over-confidence, but also that many people (especially lay-people in the context of a specific complex topic) are often blatantly ignorant and largely unaware of their ignorance. A phenomenon in our modern digital world, is that information – and misinformation – is rapidly accessible and lay-people are especially susceptible to thinking they know a lot about a particular topic, while being ignorant or misinformed about the subject. This mis-informed sense of knowledge is sometimes accompanied by a zealous (and sometimes aggressive) defense of their mis-informed knowledge. As psychologist David Dunning (Dunning-Kruger Effect) says “we are all stupid, its just that some of us are aware of how much we don’t know, and what makes us stupid” and are therefore less likely to parade our stupidity.
In David McRaney’s book “You are not so smart”, the author rather humorously (but accurately) notes that all of us humans are to some degree unaware of why and how we think, feel and behave – our unconscious biases and behavioral drivers or triggers are largely unknown to us:
“There is a growing body of knowledge coming out of psychology and cognitive science that you have no clue why you act the way you do”.
This lack of awareness is particularly concerning, even dangerous, amongst senior leaders who make important decision that impact people, organizations and even societies.
Neuroscientist, Stuart Firestein (“Ignorance: How It Drives Science”) argues that “we should value what we don’t know just as much as what we know”. However, to value this “ignorance” (but not stupidity) requires an appreciation of the depth of knowledge and of the experts who deeply understand these fields of research and study. The problem is that most people are blatantly unaware of how much they don’t know – leaders and experts in positions of power and influence who are “ignorant of their ignorance” are especially dangerous.
These psychological drivers or triggers are not only important for leaders to be self-aware of, but they also need to understand the importance of these drivers in influencing the behaviors of people they lead. Leadership coaches are in a position to become more informed about these biases, blind spots and behavioral triggers in the leaders we coach and help them become more self-aware and more effective leaders.
Subtle factors that drive emotions, thoughts and behavior that are outside of conscious awarenessDownload Article 1K Club