Leaders: Your Lenses Dictate Your Reality

Canon recently conducted an interesting experiment on the power of perspective in portrait photography.  They called it Decoy (See video footage). They engaged six photographers to independently shoot portraits of a man named Michael.  The twist: each photographer was given a different back story about Michael.  And Michael, an actor, took on the role of each character as best he could during each shoot.  

Here are the portraits* chosen by each photographer to capture Michael’s essence.













Six photographs of the same man, wearing the same clothing, in the same physical location, reveal strikingly different personas.  His complicity in taking on a role + the photographers’ perspectives/biases combine to create each image: a self-made millionaire, someone who has saved a life, an ex-inmate, a commercial fisherman, a self-proclaimed psychic, and a recovering alcoholic.

As a leader, what lens do you look thru?

  • What conscious and unconscious biases do you and your people have when hiring, promoting, firing?
  • How do you generalize when you speak about groups like millennials (Gen Y), older workers, gender groups, ethnicities different than your own etc.?
  • How do you unconsciously give some employees unearned advantages while unconsciously penalizing others?
  • How aware are you of the invisible backpack of white privilege you or others may carry?
  • How do your lenses (biased or not) affect what it is like to work in your company?  
  • How do your perceptions limit your company’s growth?
  • How could waking up to your biases grow your people and your company?

If you were briefing your own photographer, what would you say about you? How similar or different would the brief look like if it was coming from your team instead of you?  What biases might be baked in?  And how might that impact you as leader? Have an objective think on that.  

P.S. If you are looking for education on diversity and inclusion, Laraine Kaminsky, Ottawa based Global Diversity Strategist and Speaker, comes highly recommended by some very bright clients I also have the privilege to coach.  

*Photo credit to Canon



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