The Problem with Narratives

January 24th, 2020 by Douglas McEncroe · No Comments · Leadership

shutterstock_522892558It seems today that everyone has a narrative. It is more than an approach or a general philosophy, it is a line of argument that leads to a given conclusion that does greatly change over time.

Facts and data that fit into this narrative are embraced, facts and data that do not, are conveniently ignored. Sources are grouped together according to the narrative you have which means that you don’t read, dialogue or exchange ideas with people who could challenging your thinking and help you explore other perspectives. God forbid, that would threaten your narrative.

What poor leadership!

For anyone who exercises leadership and who therefore has some level of responsibility for the lives and careers of the people they lead, following the culture of narratives is just not good enough. It is the epitome of poor leadership.

I have always been influenced by the Greek and Roman Stoics. Over a period of about two hundred years they honestly explored the essence of what it meant to live a good life, of what it required to be a complete human being. People like Socrates, Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius demonstrated a love of truth, no matter how much that truth uncomfortably challenged ideas or beliefs they had previously held.

People exercising leadership need to be open to all data, to all facts and let the chips land where they land. As reality today is so complex, simple narratives can never capture what is really going on. It maybe uncomfortable to challenge previous ideas, beliefs or opinions but you will get closer to what is really going on and help your people execute the actions that are really needed.

How much do you love truth?

A good question for all of us is , how much do I love truth. Or as JFK put it, how much am I prepared to put up with the discomfort of thought instead of the comfort of opinion?

True leadership was never comfortable.


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