Leading Blog






11.18.10

Do You Have Leadership Lock-in?

As individuals, familiarity breeds cognitive lock-in. We experience cognitive lock-in whenever we choose to do something out of habit even when objectively better alternatives exist. We behave automatically rather than intentionally.

This impacts us as leaders too. It develops a kind of leadership lock-in. We get so locked-in to the values, beliefs, behavioral norms, habits and routines that it is hard to lead intentionally—the way we know we should—the way we want to. We just go through the motions of leadership without really thinking about what we are doing or the long-term consequences of our actions. Instead of adapting and learning, we plow ahead with behaviors that we are comfortable with.

The more we behave or think in a certain way, the less likely it is that we will do anything to change it, even when we can see that it is not serving us well. Instead of “learning” from experience, we really only “see” from experience the effects of our behavior. Learning is an action step. But leadership lock-in contributes to our desire to avoid the effort needed to change our behavior in a way that would get us the results we truly seek. To escape the old, locked-in behaviors, we must consciously practice what we have learned until it reaches a critical mass—until feedback reinforces/rewards that new behavior—and it becomes self-sustaining.

The comforting feel of immediate gratification plays into much of the problem presented by leadership lock-in. For example, self-serving behaviors, emotional outbursts, expediency, unrealistic pacing, and control issues, all give us immediate—momentary—gratification, but in the end, masks the long-term consequences of such behavior and thinking. And we get locked-in to what we think is working or more likely, is only working for us.

Leadership lock-in is at odds with sustainable leadership. That’s why it has been estimated that well over half of leaders don’t finish well. They get tripped up by their own thinking. The cumulative impact of their behavior derails them and eventually neutralizes their influence.

Escaping leadership lock-in begins with asking yourself, “Do I believe in this approach? Is this how I would want to be treated? Is what I am saying or doing expressing the values I believe in?”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:14 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Personal Development



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