The poet Thomas Gray penned the line, “Ignorance is bliss.” As a nostalgic look back at the innocence and ease of childhood, the phrase does seem like it could be true. My niece and nephew have no idea just how much their favorite annual family vacation costs, and it’s very possible they enjoy it more than the adults since they’re free from the responsibility of it. And while remaining intentionally ignorant about something simply to avoid a difficult moment or distract ourselves is neither mature nor helpful, sometimes it’s simply more comfortable not to know certain things, isn’t it.
We could remain ignorant of…
- the infighting and lack of trust between our team members
- the ramifications of driving too hard toward goals without healthy rhythms of rest
- the confusion and frustration unclear communication is causing for those we lead
- how competition and comparison is becoming toxic rather than motivating
What do we gain with an “ignorance is bliss” mindset? Fewer challenging conversations and less slowing down to coach the decision-making process. Maybe. But what do we lose? We lose influence, we lose trust, and we lose the health of our teams.
As leaders, we may want to avoid the difficult moments, to stick our heads in the proverbial sand and plead ignorance, but we resist that urge. We must press against it because the good on the other side of leading through crisis, the progress made when we lean in, is always worth it.
Because the truth is, we’re leaders because we want to lead. You aren’t in the position you’re in to stand still or allow others to stay stuck. You were made to affect change. And if we’re honest, we’d rather swing that pendulum all the way to the extreme opposite side from ignorance to having it all figured out. To know every possible outcome and confidently strategize a way to guide those we lead right where we want to go. Unfortunately, that’s not always realistic either, is it?
Somewhere in the middle is a starting point I want to draw your attention toward. And it’s this: awareness. Self-awareness. Organizational awareness. I’ve heard of campaigns looking to raise awareness about an issue and thought, “Awareness? What good does that do? We don’t need awareness. We need action.”
And perhaps that’s partly true. But without awareness, there can be no action.
Awareness is growth.
When you’re aware of infighting on your team, you can ask the question that unearths the root of the issue. When you’re aware of toxicity in your culture, you can begin to confront it with realignment of core values. When you’re aware of symptoms of burnout, you can carve out time to rest.
Awareness is growth. Only when you’re aware, can you take action. As Maya Angelou so helpfully wrote, “When you know better, do better.”
Where are you tending toward an “ignorance is bliss” mindset? Where are you becoming more aware? How can you harness that awareness as growth?
Additional Resources from 4Sight
Keep leading well!
Jenni Catron and The 4Sight Group
Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach who consults churches and non-profits to help them lead from their extraordinary best. She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults with individuals and teams on leadership and organizational health.
Jenni is the author of several books, including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.