It takes mental effort to identify our own bias.
Few months ago, I was putting together a presentation about Coaching and Leadership. I wanted to have one slide to stimulate some discussion, and I wanted to ask people in the audience to describe leadership with one single word.
Along with the question, the slide was supposed to feature a collage of known leaders. To my dismay, I quickly realised I was victim to bias. The first few names that came to mind were (in order) Steve Job, Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama and Jack Welch. All male. All American.
I could have certainly stuck with those, and probably nobody would have complained. Yet, as I knew by then I was biased, I forced myself to do a better research (both in my memory and on the Internet), and eventually came up with the following collage.
It was great to do that. Not only because I had a far better depiction of what a leader is and might be, but also because I had the chance to identify bias at work. At least, a certain type of bias. Perhaps next time, this list will come more naturally. And perhaps, I will be able to identify similar bias in other situations more easily.
By the way, in case you are wondering who some of the leaders in the collage are, here is the full list (from top left).
- Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post.
- Barack Obama, former President of the United States of America.
- Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Alibaba.
- Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.
- Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electrics.
- Juliana Rotich, founder of Ushahidi, blogger and entrepreneur.
- Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize winner and advocate for female education.
- Ghandi, activist and leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule.
- Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook.
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, politican and U.S. Representative.