Principle    : Beliefs Drive Effective Leadership

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The Role of Beliefs in Behaviour

Beliefs influence what we notice, how we interpret what we notice, how we feel about what we notice, and ultimately, what we do about what we notice. The more we understand about how beliefs influence behaviour, the more effective we can be at managing our own behaviour ... and at influencing the actions of others. The more we understand about how beliefs influence behaviour, the more effective we can be as people, as professionals, and as leaders.


Beliefs Influence Perceptions

Beliefs play a large role in what we attend to. If we believe people are competitive and out for themselves we will be looking for evidence of competitive intentions and actions. Beliefs play a role in how we interpret events. If we believe that people are competitive and out for themselves, we may interpret an offer to help with our work as an attempt to take it over, or to take credit for it. And when we react with defensiveness and by withdrawal, we elicit defensiveness and withdrawal in others. And this confirms our initial impressions … people are competitive and out for themselves.


Beliefs Influence Feelings​

Beliefs influence how we feel about events and actions. If we believe that change will bring us more, we will feel excited and ready to get moving with our leader's new plan. If we believe that change is likely to put us at risk, we will be fearful and may resist our leader's invitation to change. If we value being a good person, we will feel badly if we believe we have acted in a way that has harmed others. We will feel good about ourselves when we have acted in ways that we believe have had a positive impact on others. If we believe that every leader should work as hard, efficiently, and passionately as we do, we will be impatient with those who do not. If we believe that these tendencies are what make us leaders in the first place, perhaps we will simply feel lucky that we are who we are.

Beliefs Influence Behaviour

We all know that what someone believes influences how they feel and act. We see it every day in ourselves and in others. If we believe that disobedience should be punished, we will react in a punishing way when we believe that an employee did not do what we asked them to do. If we believe that people are self-motivated, we will give them room to do their work. If we believe that people are lazy, we will watch them closely to be sure that, as leaders, we do not fail.


Beliefs Drive Leadership Effectiveness

High levels of motivation, morale, engagement, retention, and confidence in leadership are the result of positive beliefs held by employees.  Negative beliefs result in distrust, low motivation, and resistance to change, all of which are serious impediments to the overall performance of an organization and its leaders. In essence, beliefs lie beneath the behaviours that determine productivity, loyalty and leadership success.  When leaders make the effort to consciously uncover and understand how their personal beliefs and those of others drive decisions and actions, they can lead with this knowledge to become more effective as leaders.

© 2012 by Dr. Robert Morton. All rights reserved