Joanne Love

My Blog

Do you lead like Mr. Magoo?

Do you lead like Mr Magoo



Mr Magoo was 1950’s cartoon character with extreme near-sightedness. He was often portrayed in comical situations to which he was totally oblivious too, and compounded by his refusal to acknowledge he had an eye-sight problem. Magoo was lucky enough to triumph over these situations, not through deliberate action, but to incite laughter in us.   


When working with some clients just recently I was reminded of Magoo. These clients relayed stories about leaders who were oblivious to what was happening in their work environment. One situation included employees ganging up and bullying some who they thought didn’t toe their line. The other situation included an employee who was offloading work to others, so they could freelance on other jobs. These two clients highlighted the flow on effect of this breach between the leader’s ignorance and reality; an environment where employees were drained, and disorganised; or an organisation that became peppered with distrust, dissension, and suspicion.


Like Magoo, some leaders will view themselves as the heroes of their own stories. They will deny or rationalise whatever contradicts their blind spots. However, unlike Magoo, this only lays the foundations for the initiation of their downfall. 


Leaders who are present, understand that they can never know every minute detail occurring in their workplace. But they work on honing and detecting the situational atmosphere. They are good at picking up “vibes” and analysing the information and its implications for their leadership actions.


Unfortunately, it is the Magoo’s who are likely to say, “I know what’s going on.” Yet, they’ve rarely analysed the situation, never working to sense the atmosphere daily. We probably all have been Mr Magoo at some time in our career. What will hold you back is stubbornness or feeling more important then you really are. Or maybe you just don’t know how to read the lie of the land. 


So how can you raise your antenna, and stop being oblivious to reality?


Observe daily – Be attentive to and don’t let your antenna go down or into autopilot. Don’t guess the information you receive, but interpret the situation occurring in the environment.

Broaden your vocabulary – Build a vocabulary to match your observations.  Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Blink” describes how observers using a greater palate of words made better judgements, due to their ability to use more labels for differing pieces of data.

Get involved -  Take your antenna into the conversations.  Join the lunch groups or walk through the offices. Listen to what is being said, hopefully not all about you!

Ask hard questions. Don’t be soft. Ask a question for which you may not necessarily like the answer.  Try and find out what the elephant in the room is.

We probably all have been Mr Magoo at some time in our career. What will hold you back is stubbornness or feeling more important then you really are. 


Sure, we may still have those Magoo moments, especially when we are overwhelmed by challenges or when unconscious bias impedes our views. Whilst it is easier to ignore these facts and focus on other areas of your business, you will soon trip up. Ensure your antenna is tuned to read efficiently your environmental context every day. While near-sightedness may work for Mr Magoo, it won’t work long-term for leaders.



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Joanne Love is known internationally for delivering thinking that is "out of the box." As an elite swimming coach, Joanne has experienced first hand what it's like to be one of the few females in a male dominated environment. Joanne has represented Australia at the highest level, including inclusion on the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Teams. These experiences led Joanne into obtaining a degree in psychology and now works with differing sporting organisations to maximise performance at all levels.


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