Running With Blinders On

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”   -Margaret J. Wheatley

Throughout the ages, horses have served as a dependable and dedicated mode of transportation.  Often as the main means for getting us and our goods from one location to another.

Unfortunately, horses are easily agitated and alarmed.  To avoid panic and distress, small leather screens called blinders are often placed alongside their head to keep them from being distracted.  To keep them focused on the path ahead.

In the same manner that blinders focus a horse forward, blinders prevent them from noticing and seeing what is coming from behind and beside.

As leaders, we can easily find ourselves putting on our own blinders.  Caught up in our own excitement and enthusiasm for an idea or initiative, we find ourselves only able to see the path forward, screened from what is happening behind and beside us.

So we plow ahead, unaware of how the whole of the system is being affected.  Often misled by our own forward focus we struggle to gauge the progress we are truly obtaining.  We find ourselves blinded from seeing how our decisions and leadership are pushing out through the organization, how it is affecting the whole of the system.

When leaders plow ahead with blinders on, they gain a lot of ground, they just miss a lot along the way.

Today’s leaders can ill-afford to run with blinders on.  As Peter Senge has often expressed, we need to tap into the “collective intelligence” within our organizations.  We can no longer think in parts, we have to acknowledge the whole of the system when we consider our decisions, ideas, initiatives, and change efforts.

As leaders, when we hold on to ideas and initiatives too tightly, when we avoid and screen ourselves from necessary and needed input and feedback, we not only fail to engage the collective intelligence of the organization, we fail the whole.  Effectively diminishing capacity and growth.  Stifling and stagnating the system.

When we get too close to an idea, an initiative, or any change effort, when we hold it too close to the chest, we fail to engage the possibilities of what those could efforts could truly become.

When this happens the whole system suffers.  We lose a global focus for a small perspective.

When we screen ourselves to seeing where possible problems and hits will spring from, we find ourselves blindsided.  Which is often the undoing of the initiative or idea.

When we cringe and hide from the negatives and feedback necessary to allow an idea to form, grow and flourish, we not only fail to engage the collective intelligence of the organization, we fail to make decisions that are in the best interest of the whole system.

And when that happens…

We find ourselves running with blinders on.

“Our willingness to acknowledge that we only see half the picture creates the conditions that make us more attractive to others.  The more sincerely we acknowledge our need for their different insights and perspectives, the more they will magnetized to join us.”  -Margaret J. Wheatley


2 thoughts on “Running With Blinders On

  1. You’ve really spoken perfectly to the myopia that’s such a huge issue in leadership within and beyond education. Too often, people either forget to ask for feedback, opinions and/or advice, refuse to listen to reaction or – at our worst – arrogantly believe that we are only people who could possibly solve the problem. I’d add that I’ve seen leadership rubrics that mandate leaders envision and implement innovation without giving credit for capacity building and team utilization. We must do better.

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