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Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps


We recently held our book group on Unlocking Leadership Mind Traps by Jennifer Garvey Berger. Jennifer is a leader in vertical development and with this short book she has distilled down what she finds stops leaders from making the transitions required to thrive in complexity.  She identifies 5 mind traps that leaders (ie any of us) can fall into:


  1. We are trapped by simple stories: This is about the stories we make up about how others are reacting to us. We look for cause and effect and forget about the complexity of the system that we are all operating in.

  2. We are trapped by rightness.  This trap relates to individuals not recognising that we see the world as we are and not as it is. We seem to think that are opinions are facts and can get trapped into thinking therefore that we are right. In a complex world this is really not true.

  3. We are trapped by agreement.  We are drawn to agreement as a point of connection. Disagreement can feel painful (literally and metaphorically) and so we try and avoid as much as possible.

  4. We are trapped by control.  Our bodies desire control and it is often the most important things in our lives that we cannot control. So we should seek to influence and not to control.

  5. We are trapped by our ego. We look to defend the person we have become as opposed to what we can be. And so our defences come up to protect our ego.

For each mind trap, Jennifer then identifies a simple question and habit to help you overcome the mind trap for example in the mind trap of: We are trapped by agreement, asking yourself the question: "Would conflict deepen this relationship?" is a really good question to help someone recognise that maybe they are holding back from conflict or they might be afraid of the consequences.  As with all defences, we are trying to interrupt the pattern of thinking to help us step back and reframe to interrupt the defence.

The beauty of this book is its simplicity.  For those of you versed in vertical development theories, you will know that there is a strong element of judgement and complexity associated with the theories.  Some of us where wondering if the different traps could be mapped onto different development stages and then decided that we think these traps can come at any life stage and maybe as you become more developed, they just become more nuanced.  We really liked that the book did not try and pigeon hole different interventions at different levels and make it accessible to everyone.  

We would highly recommend this book and clients will find it accessible and achievable. Many of us as consultants and coaches had already started using it in our coaching practice and also in consulting by either using some of the habits/questions to enable individuals to either have the more difficult conversation (as they might be trapped by agreement) or by highlighting how they might be overly aggressive (as they get trapped by rightness). Another use is working with a team and asking everyone to identify their own individual mind traps and share with the team as a source of deepening awareness of self and others.

Enjoy reading.

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