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What if the Earth was Really Flat?


Do you know anyone who thinks the Earth is actually flat?

I'm not sure why that question occurred to me. Perhaps, I was looking for a unique or different way to talk about trauma-informed leadership.

Don't laugh too hard! Stay with me for a minute, please.

If you asked a random person if they had ever heard that centuries ago people thought the Earth was flat, I'm going to guess they will say, "Yes." In fact, some people still do!

Not sure about that? Ever heard that people thought Christopher Columbus was going to sail off the edge of the world in search of the New World? Yeah, me, too.

Interestingly, scientists since the 5th century B.C. have known the world was spherical. Even before then, religious leaders believed the world was spherical (or 'round').

Yet, the myth still continues that humans were uninformed or unenlightened or worse - stupid.

But what if you learned the world really was flat?

Would it be possible, in light of all the teaching and education we've received saying the earth was round, that we could actually come to believe we were wrong and change the way we think?

That's a tall order to consider, but it's on par with the paradigm shift I'm asking people to make when it comes to being a trauma-informed leader: think differently about a major idea even though you've been taught for decades what is supposedly 'right.'

Recently, Marcus Sheridan, a leading thought leader and marketing guru, shared on LinkedIn a well known quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:

  • "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."

So let us discuss the idea that what we have learned about leadership, if not wrong, is at least lacking in its ability to solve the problems most people expect to be solved.

Whether in the context of politics, business, education or religion, we naturally have high expectations of our leaders; the primary expectation being they solve problems and not create them.

Further, we know, don't we, what good leadership looks like. Right?

Just ask any group of people to tell you the attributes of good leadership and they will recite a list longer than a Harry Potter novel.

So you would think that at a minimum more people would succeed at leadership.

However, too many leaders fail at the leadership basics which means they FAIL. Why?!

Some research suggests that the percentage of leaders and managers who fail in the first 18 months of their new assignment as a leader is roughly 40%. Forty percent?!

John Argo posted an insight into this phenomenon in his leadership blog. "Most executives think it is important to "go it alone" due to their belief in the myth of individualism. This assumption is so powerful that when an alternative view is suggested (that success depends on our relationships with others as much as it does on us) the usual reaction is denial."

Hello?! Sound similar? Here are a group of people who have been taught one thing and then learn that those things were often the wrong or incomplete answers.

Again, I'm not casting stones at glass houses. For a long time, nearly 50 years, I didn't know anything about being trauma-informed and, as a result, my leadership suffered.

I didn't understand or appreciate that adverse childhood experiences often had lasting or lingering effects long into adulthood which helped explain people's dysregulated behaviors (aka 'drama').

I didn't understand that employee turnover often resulted from how leaders triggered certain reactions in their employees by what they, as leaders, said or did.

I didn't understand that addiction issues were really about people trying to numb the emotional pain stemming from unresolved childhood trauma.

I also didn't understand how much it costs businesses every year to deal with trauma-related issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates preventable trauma costs American and European companies US$1.3 trillion a year.

What I now understand is that we can change our thinking and, with time, we can change how we lead in a way that makes a lasting, measurable, and positive difference in our employees' lives and may help leaders overcome the odds of failing and, instead, be wildly successful.

My best to everyone,

P.S. If you liked this article and think someone would benefit from it, please forward it to them and ask them to subscribe at Thank you.

Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash.

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