Volume 75, June 2007: Stereotypes

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2007 ISSN # 1545-8873

“I wasn’t interested in avoiding stereotypes … [b]ecause I think that’s a fool’s errand. It was a question of accepting or acknowledging these cliches and saying … yes, these are types. But then exploring these types and moving them toward human-hood.” — Phil Morrison

“I know the difference between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike.” — Maya Angelou

“Literary and political work helps people get rid of stereotypes.” — Amos Oz

“I think we have to destroy the stereotypes and replace them with archetypes.” — Ben Kingsley


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Recognizing that everyone is an n of 1.
  • Knowing that no one wants to “be” (limited by) their label.
  • Questioning your assumptions and those of others.
  • Appreciating and seeking out differences.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

We may consider ourselves liberal, tolerant, and just, yet there are subtle, unconscious forces at work. We would be horrified to discover prejudice and stereotypes in us. Yet they are there.

The challenge is surfacing and examining these biases. They are blind spots that impact your leadership. It is important to question them, so they do not control your decisions and interactions with people. Any over-generalization about a person’s group is limiting, because we fail to see the unique person and their talents.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Is a stereotype a prejudice?”
Stereotype means “fixed image,” whether positive or negative. Stereotypes are oversimplified generalizations, or assumptions, that people make about the characteristics of all members of a group, based on a notion about what people in that group are like. It is a normal human response to make sense of a complex world by simplifying it into categories with labels on them.
The problem lies in not examining the stereotypes: not being able to see beyond the fixed assumptions. The cumulative effect of a repeated image is belittling and harmful. Therefore, stereotypes (which are ideas) can lead to prejudice – which is the behavior that emanates from the assumptions.
“How do you learn stereotypes?”
They are acquired by osmosis. Gardenswartz and Rowe (1998) say they are “like second-hand smoke: you do not need a direct hit to be negatively affected” (p. 139). One source lists the four characteristics of stereotypes as:
  • Simple.
  • Acquired secondhand.
  • Erroneous: all stereotypes are false.
  • Resistant to change.
“Isn’t this more of an issue with minorities and other nationalities?”
No. We are all victims and perpetrators of stereotypical thinking. At the same time that you are putting people in boxes, they are doing it to you. Stereotypes exist by any way you can categorize people:
  • skin color*
  • hair color
  • gender*
  • national origin*
  • race*
  • age*
  • socioeconomics
  • sexual preference*
  • religion*
  • disability*
  • ancestry
  • marital status
  • medical condition*
  • pregnancy*
  • etc. (sky’s the limit)

* protected by law

“How do we break stereotypes?”
Awareness, insight, information and exposure.
Thousands have jumped onto the “diversity training” bandwagon. Grace (2005) cites the errors in teaching appreciation of the unique qualities of different groups. By focusing on the outer, most obvious group affiliations, we devalue people’s unique qualities (beliefs, values, skills), as well as their less obvious group memberships (such as religion, politics, class, family, education).
We should be looking for the unique contributions – the factors that make an individual an N of 1. The person. And in people, we find common ground in humanness. People are truly more alike than they are different. They wish to have a place in the world, to be loved, to be connected to something more important than themselves, to have peace and stability in their communities, for their children to thrive. We should probably take up “humanness training.”


The psychology of stereotypes – our brains are wired: The Psychology of Stereotypes.

In conflict, we see overly aggressive images – what to do. International online training program: Inaccurate and Overly Hostile Stereotypes.

Key Associates offers Appreciation of Differences and Sexual Harassment Training for organizations.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

How stereotyping can eventuate in genocide – history speaks: Stereotypes and Prejudices.

Keyzines on related topics: Valuing Diversity, Building Community, and Harassment.



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