A bias towards the victim is the mature leaders kryptonite. This bias towards the victim plays out when the leader automatically sides with one person in a conflict, often the first person to approach the leader. In order to mitigate victim bias the leader must develop the super power of objective neutrality.
Objective Neutrality is defined by me as “the state of being open to formulating a response based on an unbiased examination of facts, judgements and opinions”.
Objective neutrality precedes mature action. The skills of cultivating and recovering objective neutrality position a leader to navigate the emotional terrain of conflict. Without conscious effort to maintain objective neutrality leaders are vulnerable to immature functioning and reactive decision making.
Emotional Terrain of Conflict
You will find anxiety, triangles and the togetherness force where ever conflict erupts. As anxiety increases one or both of the individuals/groups involved in a conflict will “triangle” in a third person/group. Have you had the experience of someone coming to you with a story about another person? It is a common strategy to use the “togetherness” force to ones advantage in order to have the other person “on our side”. We all suffer from some level of victim bias in which we side with the person who comes to us first with their version of events. We subconsciously want to be the hero.
During periods of higher anxiety the desirable position in the triangle is to be on the outside. The person who approaches the leader is no doubt attempting to form an alliance. A less obvious motive is to relieve their own anxiety by avoiding the conflict of dealing with the other person.
Cultivating Objective Neutrality
In order to cultivate objective neutrality a mature leader must become a keen observer of the emotional process. This positions the leader to be less reactive to the emotional terrain on the battlefield and more free to formulate a mature response. In order to be objectively neutral the leader must be able to differentiate between the facts and the judgements and opinions held by self and others. What is the difference between a fact and an opinion? A judgement and an opinion?
Recovering Objective Neutrality
What are the markers that you have lost objective neutrality? For me a sure fire way to know that I have lost objective neutrality is seeing one as the victim and one as the villain. Fantasy is the opposite of objectivity. If I am noticing fantasies of things I will do to put the villian in their place I know that I have veered away from a mature path. Another marker is clarity of what am I aligning with. A sign that I am in a state of objective neutrality is the recognition of alignment with a principle rather than a person.
Why is this so important? What are the risks of a leader losing objective neutrality? What can happen if the leader doesn’t take a side?
You are invited to explore these questions during a zoom chat, free of charge, on Thursday August 20 at 6:00 pm SK Time (8:00 pm EST). Send an email to [email protected] to register.
Photo by: Charles Fettinger