Cognitive Biases That Bind and Blind You: Mind Knots

In the mind of every person can be found what I call, “mind knots.” These are just what they sound like. They are distortions, twists, and tangles in perception and thinking that produce poor decisions, leading to bad outcomes that could have been avoided. Deeply entrenched in our human psyche, these cognitive biases shape our […]
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In the mind of every person can be found what I call, “mind knots.” These are just what they sound like. They are distortions, twists, and tangles in perception and thinking that produce poor decisions, leading to bad outcomes that could have been avoided. Deeply entrenched in our human psyche, these cognitive biases shape our perceptions. They weave a narrative in our minds, swaying our thinking and emotions, often misguiding our judgment, the decisions we make, and the actions we take.

It’s a uniquely human problem. No one is immune.

We bring to each decision the complications of our own preconceptions and biases. Sometimes we get lucky, and our biases actually produce a good result. But that’s not often the case in complex situations. In leadership, where good judgment and decision-making are paramount, it’s dangerous to think of mind knots as an asset. Without knowing how to manage them, mostly they are not.

Cognitive and emotional biases are in play every day, swaying the decisions we make, and the actions we take.

Unmanaged, problems occur and usually compound. Understanding how our biases can sway and deceive us gives us the opportunity to identify signals and pick up clues that suggest we may not be seeing or thinking as clearly as we think we are.

Mind knots are in play every day. They’re not just tempting us in times of big decisions. They can steer us at any moment before we know what’s happening. Leaders who learn to recognize their predispositions, or biases, and when and how to challenge them, can and will improve their judgment – reducing errors in the decisions they make and the actions they take.

Know Your Mind Knots

Knowing how to use our mind to organize our thinking and to manage our emotions in ways that keep us out of trouble is possible if we can recognize our unconscious tendencies.

By taking the lead rather than being led by these subconscious forces that direct you without your permission, and often without your even knowing, you will be better positioned in your leadership and your life.

While it’s not easy, learn to recognize your biases. When you do, you will be in a better position to steer your mind to manage your thoughts and emotions in ways that will protect you, your team, and your organization. Then, you can adopt strategies to use your cognitive and emotional inclinations to work for you instead of against you.

Understanding and recognizing your biases has practical value in the day-to-day of your leadership, and importantly, when you are choosing leaders for your organization. Why? Because mind knots that unconsciously steer you, and the leaders you hire are a hidden cost to your bottom line. A leader’s mental lens matters.

You own your mind knots. Either you lead them, or they will lead you.

How You Can Learn More

Take the first step by joining me on a mind knots journey. Learn about the cognitive and emotional biases that may be tying you and your organization down, and learn how to navigate them.

Mind knots cannot be eliminated. But they can be managed. And since you can’t “beat” them, you join them – harnessing their forces to work for you instead of against you.

On January 30th 2024, Mind Knots: Understanding The Cognitive and Emotional biases that Prevent Rational Leadership will be released.

Follow me on LinkedIn for details, and for a sneak peek at some content! I look forward to sharing more with you.

Final thoughts

In the meantime, to become acquainted with some of the common biases impacting leaders and the selection of leaders, you can find examples in my previous two articles The Past Performance Myth, and The Leadership Compound Effect including Intuition bias, Well-Traveled Road Effect, Availability bias, and the Halo Effect.


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Thank you for your leadership and your readership!


Lisa Tromba, Founder, Leadership Intelligence Services
and Co-Founder, Luisi Tromba Advisors / Executive Search

Lisa@luisitromba.com or Lisa@leadershipintell.com


As an executive recruiter and trusted advisor for over 20 years, my life’s work is helping organizations and leaders to advance missions and achieve outcomes together – through clear thinking, reasoning, and evidence-based decision-making – focused on aligning leaders who are uniquely positioned to the uniqueness of a situation.

The advantage is leadership edge.

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