On a family trip over Easter, I was determined to meet the Easter Bunny and interview him on leadership. I got more than I bargained for!
3 am – all quiet. There he was, back to me, stashing a bundle of chocolate eggs in the trees beside our tent.
‘Mr Easter Bunny – excuse me Sir. Can I ask you a few questions about leadership?’
He turned around – OMG – ‘he’ was a ‘she’ – how embarrassing! All my life I assumed the Easter Bunny was male! He’s female!
This reminded me of the test I did on unconscious gender knowledge last December from the Centre for Ethical Leadership. My results horrified me!
My test indicated that at an unconscious knowledge level, I link leadership traits with typically male characteristics. It also showed that I link traits of domesticity with typically female characteristics.
These results surprised me. When I was growing up I was told (and I believed) I could do anything I wanted… I have always been the primary income earner in my family… I have held leadership positions for most of my career. Now I train and champion female leaders.
The CEL trainer was quick to point out that ‘unconscious knowledge’ may produce ‘unconscious bias’, but the two are not the same thing. People can consciously override unconscious knowledge and produce unbiased responses. That’s what I hope I do. How about you?
The CEL recommends three strategies for reducing bias:
- Slow down your thinking – listen, reflect, ask questions.
- Consider counter positions – ask counter-factual questions, have a ‘devil’s advocate’.
- Manage the situation – start with a bias reminder, have an agenda, process, clear roles of engagement.
Oh – and what did Easter Bunny say about leadership?
- Single focus drives excellence – Know what you do and do it well.
- Build a loyal following – When customers value what you do, they keep believing.
- Mitigate against unconscious bias – Accept that we all have unconscious knowledge and take conscious action to minimise bias.