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Christina Lattimer

People Development Magazine


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Building Open-mindedness as a Leadership Trait


 Do you sometimes just feel stuck, frustrated or weary of the effort of trying to change either yourself or others? .  One of the traits of a great leader is open-mindedness.  What follows is a simple technique to help you to practice your open-mindedness muscle.

I don’t think any of us could be totally open-minded because we continually have to make decisions and in order to make decisions we usually have to come to some sort of conclusion even if that means not making a decision at all. 

Being open-minded, isn’t universally a characteristic we are born with, often we have to develop the crucial habits of self-reflection, observation, challenging beliefs and perceptions.  For many of us, until something in life looms up to challenge us, then we simply don’t make the effort, or we just don’t realise, we should be questioning our daily paradigm.

Some of the pitfalls of not practicing open-mindedness are:

  • Having a Groundhog day experience
  • Seeing other people grow away from you
  • Staying in a miserable situation/state/relationship
  • Giving up on dreams
  • Feeling like a victim
  • Limiting other people
  • Stereo-typing situations or people
  • Coming to faulty conclusions

Within my coaching practice, I regularly see clients or people they work with, struggle to overcome fixed beliefs, values, judgments or even wishful thinking that get in the way of changing, or moving forward,  in a situation.

The most common reasons they struggle is that it sometimes feels painful to have to  a) acknowledge there is another way to look at things, and they might have gotten it wrong, b) they have a need to be right, or c) they have to track back to painful situations in their past which formed their limiting beliefs.

Byron Katie has a brilliant method which demonstrates how we can turn around beliefs and ways of thinking  to find relief from uncomfortable or painful emotions.   You can find out more about Byron Katie’s work in her series of books which started with.  “Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life”

For me,  there is a simple formula which can help the process of practicing open-mindedness, and I call this “The golden triangle”.  In essence, this involves looking at tricky situations in 3 ways.  From your own perspective, the perspective of the other(s), and then as an observer

The role of the observer is essential in this process because it is in the observer’s role when it is possible to remain neutral, detached and to see the bigger picture. The possibilities are endless. When you come to make decisions, using the perspective of an observer you come to realise:

  • For every argument “for“,  there is a counterargument
  • Beliefs, thoughts, perceptions and ideas are fluid and flexible
  • Values can change depending on different situations
  • Stories and myths are helpful to unraveling paradigms or thought patterns

We all need to form paradigms, beliefs and ways of thinking and making decisions which work for us, we couldn’t get through our daily lives without such a structure.  But if that structure isn’t working for you, then it’s time to visit the Golden Triangle and practice your muscle of open-mindedness

Christina has managed people for twenty seven years and led hugely successful teams. She has worked with people at all levels in various organisations to help them achieve their potential, and she has been actively involved in the learning and development field in a number of different roles.

People Discovery is a Leadership Development provider based in North East England, working globally.

One Response

  1. Open mindedness

    Accepting that for every argument there is a counter-argument is in my view one of the reasons we keep on witnessing the same or similar difficulties in managing/leading/call-it-what-you-will.  What makes it even worse is that the legislators have taken this up with an eagerness that works against Managers, so that the counter-argument takes on a value way beyond what 'common sense' determines.

    As an example, take the rule that start time at work is 7:30.  There are many counter-arguments to this which I will leave to your collective experiences, BUT, the fact remains that is the agreed start time.  All that is required is to take note of the reason[s] someone may not be at work at the time, eal with them as appropriate, and move on.  They are not counter-arguments in fact but explanations and we create difficulties for ourselves that need not exist by putting counter-arguments in a box that in reality, in the workplace, are explanations.

    Why am I going on about this?…………simply because there has developed a belief that explanations deserve the same level of attention as counter-arguments.  They do not!  Creating confusion out of simplicity is the latest name of the game and if you don't agree, check how the most recent employment related legislation has come into existence.


    Cheers.  DonR.

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Christina Lattimer


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