How To Navigate The 5 Leadership Mind Traps


By Linda Cattelan

Every now and then, you come across a book that really gets you into thinking mode and changing the way you think. For me, that book was Jennifer Garvey Berger’s “Unlocking Leadership Mind Traps: How to Thrive in Complexity”.

The first time I discovered Jennifer Garvey Berger was in an online course called The Art of Developmental Coaching. She was one of the instructors, she was engaging and had very profound perspectives and facts in relation to adult and leadership development.

Thinking Simple In A Complex World?

Jennifer Garvey Berger states:

“We are living in this strange, paradoxical time in our world where the massively increasing complexity around us could lead us to grow faster and more compassionately and more together, or it could lead us to get more defensive, closed, hard, and smaller.”

It is apparent that we live in a complex world that is becoming increasingly more complex. But just as we must deal with the complexity “out there” or external to our selves, we are challenged to understand and deal with the complexity “in here” and internal to our selves.

In Garvey Berger’s book, she refers to 5 Mind Traps. The basis is that we act as if the world were simple when in fact the world is complex. When we recognize these mind traps within ourselves, we are better positioned to see things through a broader lens and this ultimately provides us with greater resources to deal with the actual complexity.

What Are The 5 Mind Traps?

These are the 5 Mind Traps:

1. Simple Stories

We love our stories. Stories often have a beginning, middle and end and are filled with heroes and villains. Often, we are the hero in the story and the other person is the villain. Our problem-solving nature looks for short cuts and so the story is riddled with our beliefs and bias.

But simple stories keep us small and presume a certain outcome based on the past. One way to expand beyond our story is to consider the other person in the story. How might they be considered a hero?

2. Rightness

Our sense of being “right” while it enables our decisiveness can kill curiosity and openness. People typically confuse feeling right with being right. Ask yourself “what do I believe and how can I be wrong?”. Always challenge your basic assumptions. There are always two sides to a coin, two sides to an issue – it is good practice to explore the other side. Endeavor to listen carefully to learn rather than to win or fix things.

3. Agreement

Human beings are programmed to be connected to other people. Agreement fulfills our desire for belonging and connection. Sometimes, we so desire to belong that we downplay our differences of opinion.

We are oriented to not be socially disconnected because the pain of being left out is experienced the same way as physical pain in the body. To release this mind trap, consider how conflict could serve to deepen a relationship. Or how disagreeing might lead to expanded thinking and ideas.

4. Control

The sense of being in control is directly tied to the feeling of being happy. In fact, our being in control and being perceived by others as being in control is often equated with good leadership. However, at times especially in complexity great leadership requires a leader to let go of control to enable better outcomes. Ask yourself: What can I help enable instead of asking “what can I make happen?” Or what could enable me/us?

5. Ego

Our sense of who we are helps us function with purpose. Who we are now is a culmination of our beliefs, experiences, and thoughts to this point in our journey. The problem, however, is that we are protective of the person we are being now vs the person we are becoming.

We believe we have changed in the past but for some reason probably won’t change much moving forward. This leads us to want to protect the person we think we are. For true personal growth to happen, we need to pay attention to the map of our own development and ask ourselves “who would I like to be next?”

About the Author

Linda Cattelan is an Executive/Career Acceleration Coach. She has helped thousands of career professionals avoid burnout, alleviate stress, clarify their priorities, regain control of their career, and increase their performance, focus and readiness for the next level. If you are looking to get unstuck and make a huge difference in your career, Linda can help you. Sign up for the free Report: 3 Surprising Reasons Your Career is Stuck in Neutral and What You Can Do About It: