[December 5, 2017] The girlfriend of one of my best friends is a hard person to get along with; even on her best days. She is a hardcore New York Yankees fan and only associates with like-minded baseball enthusiasts and other such devotees. Every conversation revolves around her team and, of course, they can do no wrong. She lives in the echo chamber of diehard Yankee fans.
She is like many folks I know who adopt strong positions on a political ideology. For example, a childhood associate of mine, Billy, was always the fat kid in school and unpopular. Some suggest he later adopted the teachings of Mao and became a devoted Communist because of those issues. Everything he does and sees is through the lens of workers being suppressed by corrupt capitalists. I cannot have a conversation with him on any topic without some insult to how the U.S. economy is run or how the poor are treated. All his friends are the same.
A personal example … I am well aware that I have a bias against socialism and it reflects here in theLeaderMaker.com posts (see examples here, here, and here). I am around people who think the same and recognize that fact and admit it. I believe that anyone with a good mind and can read will find socialism unfavorable. The key here is that I understand my bias against socialism and expose myself to the ideas behind it.
For leaders, it is important to avoid echo chambers. Being in an echo chamber reinforces self-indulgence, intellectual laziness, feel-good opinions, and personal dishonesty. The latter problem is serious as we can begin to delude ourselves into thinking that others are not just wrong but should be punished for their views (see Joseph Stalin for a good example of this).
As leaders, we should be asking ourselves “how to avoid the echo chamber?”1 First, be conscious of its inherent bias. Second, expose yourself to those with a diversity of views that oppose your way of thinking. Third, avoid always being around folks who think like you. Fourth, get a mentor who will help broaden your thinking (and recognize your echo chamber). And lastly, spend time reading a variety of philosophies that argue many viewpoints.
Leadership means many things and one of them is avoiding obstacles that can entangle even the best leader. That is why we need to be constantly on guard. Falling into an echo chamber that makes us feel comfortable is one of those insidious traps.
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