The pitch for a public radio station said that they are “driven by facts, not ideologies.” It’s an interesting statement, but one that I’m convinced is inaccurate. It’s not that I have anything against this particular station or public radio. It’s just that I’m learning how subjective “facts” can be.
How can facts be subjective? Start from the awareness that we’ll never have all of the facts for a given situation. Add to that the human tendency to hear or emphasize facts that support our biases. There’s also a tendency to surround ourselves with like-minded people, who will have similar biases. Before long, your leadership team can be convinced about a strategic direction that is anchored in half-truths.
For example, a church may experience the addition of a number of new members and increased attendance. Leadership may conclude that they’re doing the right things and that they should stay the course. But what if the increase is from people who are leaving a nearby church that has had internal problems? The “fact” of growth is not incorrect, but it could mask other issues that need to be addressed.
If you can’t rely on facts, how should you lead?
- Listen to people with different perspectives. The leadership team needs to include individuals who see the world differently than you, who will bring new and different facts, and who will challenge each other.
- Ask questions. Rather than accepting facts at face value, ask what they mean. Seek alternative explanations beyond the ones that are obvious or that support your biases. Look for information that confirms or contradicts your facts.
- Don’t be paralyzed. You will never have all the facts, so recognize the difference between digging deeper in order to make a wise decision and waiting too long to make the perfect decision.
Of course, this blog is just my opinion. Feel free to look for some other facts about facts.
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