Late one night a police officer sees a man on his hands and knees searching the ground near a streetlight. The officer asks him what is wrong. The man replies, “I am looking for my car keys.” The officer helps him look for several minutes and after no luck, asks, “Are you sure you dropped them here?” “No,” replies the man, “I lost the keys somewhere across the street.” “Then why are we looking here?” asks the surprised police officer. “Because,” the man explains, “The light is much better here.”
This story reflects the idea that we often search for answers where it is easy to look, or where we are used to looking, rather than where the answer is actually most likely to be (O’Toole, 2013). In the field of leadership, our streetlight has shone on behavioral competencies as the standard for all leadership development. But leadership encompasses much more than behaviors—what happens inside leaders’ minds also plays an important role in creating effective leadership.