Today I was reminded how preconceived ideas regarding something or someone are dangerous. I find it very easy to take a situation or an individual that I do not know well and create an image based on my limited knowledge. This is very dangerous and should be avoided for all people but especially for a leader. The reason that this is dangerous is that often I find that my preconceptions are very inaccurate. Let me share a recent example.
I am heading to a very important meeting at the end of this week. The location for the meeting is not one that I was overly excited about. My limited knowledge of the area led me to believe that the city was not very exciting and that I would have limited interests to explore during my free time. I began longing for the meeting to be held in a “more exciting” location even though I knew that there would be no change in locations since years of planning and preparation had already gone into all of this. Then through a friend of mine who had a connection to an individual living in the city of my destination, I received a whole list of what opportunities existed where I was going. Now I am hoping to have enough free time between meetings to actually explore this city.
That is just one example of how misperceptions can lead us in a totally wrong direction. Yet, how often do we take this type of path? I find myself easily falling into the trap of forming opinions based on limited knowledge or early opinions. This is completely unfair to the individuals or situations which I make opinions about. People and situations should be given the opportunity to be who and what they are, not fit the mold into which our perceptions place them. We should take the time to get to know the person or the circumstance prior to forming opinions. Leaders must be diligent about taking this approach. Leaders also should encourage and redirect others in this area.
Jesus approached each person and each situation openly and honestly. Even though the Lord could see much deeper than any of us, he never used initial impressions to label individuals or quickly determine a course of action. This is an example that all of us would benefit from following.
So I encourage all of you (and give myself a double warning) to be careful of reacting to first impressions or preconceived opinions. Strive to be open and explore before creating opinions, courses of action, or ways of responding.