Beware of the spotlight syndrome

Imagine that you’re in a dark auditorium and suddenly a spotlight is turned on. It is bright and clearly illumines the area it shines on. But it is a limited area and someone is controlling where you are looking.

In life and leadership be aware of, and beware of, those times when you are, either by choice or compulsion, “following the spotlight.”

Here’s why.

A spotlight has a narrow focus.

Though a spotlight does illuminate reality, it only reveals a small part of reality—your attention is drawn to, but limited to, a narrow range. In a dark space, you’re essentially blinded to all the space other than what the spotlight’s beam shines on.

A spotlight is vulnerable to bias.

Someone (the spotlight operator or the director) has predetermined what the light will focus on; someone else has determined what you will see. In essence, you are being manipulated. When there is ample general lighting, you can choose what you want to focus on, but in a darkened room where there’s only one beam of light, your focus is determined by others.

Now let’s apply these thoughts to life outside the theatre.

Sometimes in life we’re manipulated into focusing on a particular issue.

  • When you listen to a news broadcast, the topics have been decided in advance and are usually presented in a biased way.
  • In a meeting that has an agenda, someone has predetermined what issues will be discussed.
  • In conversations, someone may consciously or unconsciously choose the topics that are discussed.

Sometimes in life we inadvertently, and to our detriment, choose to focus on a singular issue. We may focus on one aspect of our lives to the exclusion of the bigger picture. We often do this when experiencing pain or hardship—we obsess on one part to the neglect of others. Or, we may become preoccupied with a single goal, one that doesn’t deserve our exclusive attention.

Leaders, understand the power of this principle and use it for the good of your organization; don’t abuse it or let others abuse it. Keep your eye on the entire organization which will enhance overall organizational health and maintain balance and fairness. Don’t fall prey to the spotlight syndrome or cause it.

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay?[/reminder]

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