Why Leaders Need to Think Beyond the Group

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In any organization one of the most potent threats to clear, effective leadership can be “groupthink”.

And perhaps no organization is more susceptible to groupthink than the local church.

group thinkThe term and concept was coined in the early ’70s by social psychologist Irving Janis, and refers to what can happen when judgment is short-circuited through the collective mindset of a highly cohesive group.

Such groups can become relentlessly focused on a particular way of seeing things. And the result can be consistently poor decision making.

Scripture is full of examples, perhaps none stronger than when the Israelites defied God’s warnings and chose instead to invade Canaan. “In their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country…Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.” (Numbers 14: 44-45)

The key phrase is in their presumption. Group thinking, characterized by unfounded or ill-informed presumptions, had the Israelites marching toward certain doom. Groupthink had replaced clear leadership.

How susceptible is your leadership to groupthink? Here’s a simple test.

We recently announced the speaker lineup for this year’s Global Leadership Summit, September 29-30 in Canada. As you look at the profile’s for this year’s faculty no doubt some will come from perspectives with which you’re less familiar and comfortable.

Do you respond negatively, saying to yourself “I don’t like the speakers who don’t agree with my perspective” or do you embrace the diversity, saying “These speakers can expand my thinking?”

If you want to lead beyond groupthink here’s what I’ve learned from effective leaders:

  • Look at your reading list.

o   Make sure you are being exposed to ideas from beyond your usual perspective.

  • Look at your relational world.

o   Make sure you are connecting with sharp people who might challenge your outlook.

This is not to say that you embrace every idea that comes floating by. But by exploring a world slightly beyond that of your “group” you just might avoid being beaten back “all the way to Hormah”!

the author

Scott Cochrane

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