Three Principles that Explain Authentic Decision-Making
You can’t make a good decision until you know who you are. Decisions based on someone else’s values are dissatisfying and ineffective.
3 principles that explain authentic decision-making:
#1. Identity tells you what to do.
Who you are is the foundation of useful action.
You don’t vacuum your house with a snowplow. And you can’t do snow removal with a vacuum.
If you’re a snowplow, look for snow. If you’re a vacuum, look for a dirty carpet.
Identity shows you what you do best. You can get groceries with a snow plow, but it’s not efficient. Snow plows are at their best when they feel the load of snow on the blade.
#2. Identity controls decisions.
Buying a car isn’t a rational decision. It’s about self-perception. I drive a pickup truck because I’m still that 13-year-old farm boy from Maine. It feels good.
Dr. James March suggests three questions for identity-based-decisions*:
- Who am I?
- What kind of situation is this?
- What do people like me do in this kind of situation?
#3. Identity controls behavior.
Thirty years ago, Texas introduced an anti-litter campaign based on the self-perception of Texans. It wasn’t “Give a hoot. Don’t Pollute.”
Texan’s are anti-authoritarian. Their identity-based-campaign was, “Don’t Mess with Texas.” Willie Nelson sang, “Mommas tell all your babies, “Don’t mess with Texas.” Litter dropped over 70%.
When you forget who you are, you define yourself by your circumstances.
The danger of forgetting who you are is losing yourself to the organization you lead. You become unfulfilled and drained.
- Tell everyone who you are by word and example.
- Tell everyone who WE are from an organizational point of view.
Warren Bennis said, “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself …”
How might you become who they are?
What blocks authentic leadership?
How might you become who they are? Life’s challenges molds us into who we become, if we are lucky enough we learned from our parents experiences that molded them, based on circumstances they were faced with. We as off spring tend to learn by watching them and our others who have various challenges in life, some are mental, others have physical issues which make being a leader difficult, yet not impossible. Our teachers also played a tremendous role in molding us, I can tell you ” the Nuns taught me very quickly on respect and Christian values” as their rulers had a snap to them on ones palms!
What blocks authentic leadership?
I think the “fear factor” gets in the way of some or, lack of guidance, experience, or “doing tasks with the wrong tools”, as Dan, has pointed out! typically we make choices by what we know and how to do it. “The task dictates the tools”!
Thanks Tim. Your reference to fear as a reason authentic leadership is blocked speaks to me. We fear the opinion of others and in the process, we become who THEY want us to become.
There are several motivations behind this fear. … We want power in the organization so we conform. We want a raise…. We are afraid of loosing the respect others seem to have.
A strong sense of identity enables us to overcome fear. Wanting to be liked is normal and healthy. Needing to be liked is self-destructive.
Substitute the word strategy for identity, and I can buy in to your construct here …
When doing, saying and achieving align … leadership happens.
I am a plow when needs be, a knife, a vacuum, a bullet … justified only by principle, not ID.
Thanks Rurbane… it seems circumstances impact the tools we bring out.
In the context of this post, you still begin with a basic identity – snowplow or vacuum. OR, we are what we do. (There are some good arguments for this position as well.)
I am NOT my circumstance, nor am I the appearance, nor am “I” defined by circumstantial behaviour …
I AM what I aim at (precisely, say, state out loud), hit (w/o collateral damage, nothing else lost, say, do openly), and reform (design, say, align in effect).
It is never simple; and metaphors/similies don’t suffice to cover it. And I am never perfect. I am love 🙂
Excellent post that resonated with me because it articulated a perspective I hadn’t really reflected on too much. We are told that looking to others we respect and admire as examples of leadership is a way of developing our style. And while I think this is true we cannot parrot them or their characteristics because we have our own unique way of leading. I’ve learned from other leaders (sometimes I’ve learning what not to do). That is different than mimicking or parroting them, which would be disingenuous and take away from my own effectiveness as a leader.
This. This precisely.
“The danger of forgetting who you are is losing yourself to the organization you lead”
Most organisations go out of their way to make you forget who you are. Large organisations go out of their way to mould people into what that organisation wants them to be, and to hell with authenticity. Whether this is large private companies, government departments, the military or something like the church, it’s the organisation’s way or the highway.
WOW! I wonder if this is why some leaders are so unhappy. They take the job for the money after they were happy in their last job. To become a leader because that is next on this list is not a good reason to become a leader.
What blocks authentic leadership? Wanting to be all things to all men.
Hi Dan, I wonder if people might use authenticity as a way of avoiding self reflection, recognition of the need to change and the resulting growth? To paraphrase Maslow, I think, if you are a hammer it’s likely everything you see will be treated as if it’s a nail and you will pound away!Knowing what you are shouldn’t preclude asking the question… am I what I should be?
I love that quote from Warren Bennis, it’s the first i’ve heard it but how profound of a statement! I think this post is a reminder to all those that aspire to move up the corporate ladder to always stay true to yourself. I’ve seen those burn out faster because they weren’t their selves. It’s never wrong to stick to who you are as long as it’s conducive to the working environment. There’s levels to being comfortable with who you are and it requires self-reflecting and understand what makes you happy and what you want.
This was a very refreshing blog! I’m all about working within my identity! It takes some soul searching to find your identity and then your purpose. Anyone that operates outside their identity will have some issues whether it’s with peers, bosses, customers or stakeholders. I’m sure we have always found yourself working with some disgruntled worker, coming to find out that he hates his profession. I believe that partly that profession isn’t part of his identity. I understand that many professions are very broad, but when you find your niche, you find happiness and self-satisfaction.
For example, what about the consideration of banning transgenders from the military. I don’t think someone that’s considers him/her-self transgender or even a supporter would identify with the military or find themselves completely satisfied working in that environment let alone in leadership positions. Using this example, you still see people that have blocked their authenticity and authentic leadership.
People have found themselves continuing to work in organizations that completely differs from their personal views or identity. Many reasons bring them to those circumstances. Some that come to mind is conformity, financial goals, or just being unaware
‘If you they can do it, you can do more better.’ An excerpt from Gifted hands.. Actions with a positive resultant effect is one great step to nurture and maximize today inorder to get credits tomorrow. I don’t aim to become who they are rather I aim to build up the necessary skills and qualities and acknowing the pro and con’s along the path.
What blocks authentic leadership?
I think one major challenge is ‘fear of the unknown.’ what happens now and tomorrow if.. Humility status questions what happens next if after the achievements but still lack the right attitude to acqualize your goals.
Becoming my best self is a daily choice. I choose to learn more about leadership, the Bible, and others. In turn, I’ve learned more about myself. I understand that I’m a bit quirky. But in those quirks are power. These are all important elements to remember.
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