Are you subjective or objective? How can we be more objective?
I think what Elizabeth Thornton has offered in her book, “The Objective Leader”, has offered us insightful descriptions and comparisons of subjectivity and objectivity:
“Leadership effectiveness is measured by our ability to achieve results. We analyze the situation, make a decision, take action, and hope for the desired result. Our results are determined by the actions we take. Our actions are determined by the decisions we make. Our decisions are based on what we think or believe about the situation. The challenge for leaders is that it is quite natural for us to perceive and respond to everything we experience through the lens of our mental models. These mental models are our deep-rooted ideas, assumptions, and biases about the way the world works and how things ought to be. When we encounter a person, situation or event, we instantly project our mental models, which are often based on our backgrounds, past experiences, and fears. The end result is that we often perceive, judge, and respond to people, circumstances, and events incorrectly, and we fail to achieve our intended result. Our ability to evaluate situations, make decisions, and take effective action is directly related to our ability to be objective – to perceive and respond to things as they really are…I do not believe we, as humans, can be 100 percent objective…The good news is that we can challenge our underlying assumptions and the way we frame our world in order to reduce our subjectivity and respond more objectively to what actually is….When we can ask ourselves about other possible ways of looking at a situation, we are being objective. When we can understand and consider another person’s point of view, we are being objective. When we can identify and evaluate assumptions and conclusions other than our own, we are being objective. When we can put our past experience behind us, use it only as a data point but evaluate situations in the present, we are being objective. Therefore, our working definition of objectivity is seeing and accepting things as they are without projecting our fears, mental models, and past experience, and responding thoughtfully and deliberately to the people, circumstances, and events in our lives”.
Although this book is for leaders, Thornton’s insights on subjectivity and objectivity are applicable to everyone. In my own reflection, I realize how subjective I have been according to Thronton. At the same time, I am inspired and encouraged by Thornton that we can be more objective.