Tag Archives: Cognitive Dissonance

Are You Suffering from Moral Superiority?

Are you really as good a person as you think you are? Don’t get me wrong; I think you’re great, really, I do. What I’m asking is whether you are morally superior to the general population. Are your decisions more principled? Is you behavior more virtuous?

According to research in Social Psychological and Personality Science, we tend to see ourselves as better than other people. In the study, participants rated themselves and the average person on traits reflecting the core dimensions of social perception: morality (e.g., sincerity, honesty), sociability (e.g., warmth, likeability), and agency (e.g., competence, creativity). Virtually all individuals irrationally inflated their moral qualities. For instance, they rated traits like trustworthiness as 6.1 for themselves, but only 4.3 for others. The other domains of positive self-evaluation also received higher scores, but the participants didn’t inflate their scores as much as they did for the morality-based characteristics.

In another study from Motivation and Emotion, participants estimated the percentage of times they exhibited positive traits. Six weeks later, these same participants evaluated the average person’s positive traits based on estimates that supposedly represented the populace. In reality, the traits being measured were their own scores. Results found that people consistently gauge themselves more favorably than others, even when the estimates on which they base their ratings are identical to their own.

If you’re familiar with the theory of social projection, it states the belief that if you do something, others are likely to do the same. But if this were true, in the two studies above and numerous others, participants would either drop their own self-rating or rate everyone else higher. No, social projection may be true for aspects of our life, but there remains an assumption that one’s morality is significantly greater than everyone else.

As a leader, moral superiority can have dangerous repercussions. This “positive illusion” leads to self-justified corruption, a reduced willingness to compromise, and intolerance. In addition, people displaying this arrogance feel less obligated to follow a strict ethical code because they believe themselves to already be so much more progressive. Thus, by believing we are above the moral average, it could ironically makes us less so.

Don’t fall for the trappings of moral conceit. I’m sure you are extremely morality-bound, but so are most of the people around you. You may not always understand why they behave the ways they do, but that’s an opportunity to converse, not pronounce them as malefactors and yourself a saint. Sustain a more grounded outlook and keep your “ethical ego” in check.

Mark Hamill on Three Ways to Build “Ultra Passionate Fan” Support

mark-hamillA key aspect in being a leader is having people who follow you…voluntarily…and readily. Some may call these individuals “fans,” but after reading this quote from Mark Hamill, we need to strive for more than just people who like us; we need “Ultra Passionate Fans.”

…I have the most supportive backup. It sounds corny but over the course of my life to have this happen in a way that people are, you know – it’s like if I hadn’t gone through the Beatles I wouldn’t understand it. And I’m not comparing myself to them in any way, shape or form, but in terms of disproportionate reverence for something that you can’t explain, where you wanna know where they live and what they eat. I call ’em UPFs: the Ultra Passionate Fan. ‘Cause there’s fans who like the movie and, go, ‘It was well done and I enjoyed myself. Now I wanna see the James Bond’ — and then there are the UPFs. It’s changed their lives: ‘I got into movies because of this,’ or ‘I met my wife online [because of Star Wars].’—Mark Hamill

We don’t need to possess the Jedi mind-control mastery of Luke Skywalker to garner Ultra Passionate Fans. These three support-building tools should be all the Force you need.

Focus on Feelings

The essence of fandom is based in an emotional attachment. This means you will not build a foundation of support on a logic-based fact campaign. You need to tap into their sentimental side.

Star Wars provides endearing characters and an engaging plot shrouded in a mythos that is imprinted in our unconscious. To tap into you’re team’s feelings, consider why they should care, how will they be affected, and what is expected of them to get it done. Then, tailor your message to directly address these concerns.

Emphasize Involvement

While Passionate Fans are fascinated with a particular thing, Ultra Passionate Fans are actively involved in propagating that thing. For a Star Wars fan, this includes watching the movies, reading the books, and/or buying the toys; however, these are still relatively passive behaviors. To be more active, they may role play Han and Luke (as me and my friends did when we were kids) or argue the intricacies and philosophical stances of the Jedi Knight (as me and my friends do now).

The idea of active involvement stems from the psychological theory of effort justification where people have a tendency to attribute greater value to an outcome if they put effort into achieving it. Therefore as leaders, we must produce opportunities for your team to exert energy. Include them in developing goals. Enact an action plan. And empower them to move that plan forward.

Encourage Inquisition

For people to feel a desire to be involved, they cannot be spoon-fed every morsel of information. In an interesting article by R. Donald James Gauvreau, he relayed a conversation on Harry Potter fandom:

It was pointed out that a major factor— not necessarily the biggest, just big— was, paradoxically, that there was so much room for improvement in the series. There were holes, there were things that didn’t make sense, and there were plot decisions that weren’t liked, and so the series straddled this weird place where it was awesome enough to be worth reading but sucky enough that you wanted to go in and fix the stuff you didn’t like.

If you want to teach your team, give them a fully outlined project. If you want them to be engaged contributors, provide the vision and get out of the way so they have adequate time to build curiosity and buy-in. Ask questions to prompt participation and let them fill in the details so they can own it.

Mark Hamill has been in the center of Ultra Passionate Fandom for almost 40 years. He understands the benefits of an avid group of supporters and how they will follow and back you through each of your subsequent endeavors. You can re-create your fan base with each new venture, or you can solidify your champions now, freeing you up to spend the rest of your time making progress that moves you closer towards your goals. Resist the Dark Side and be a leader in the Rebel Alliance.

Can I Blame Ronald Reagan for the Current State of Politics? A Leadership Lesson on Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

ronald_reagan_quoteLike most people, I was surprised by last week’s election results. Regardless of your ideology, every poll indicated Clinton would win, including those used by the Republican party. However, after reflecting (and a little Monday morning quarterbacking), I’ve become less and less surprised and more and more convinced that Trump’s win is the culmination of a trend that began under the direction of GOP icon Ronald Reagan.

In his first inaugural address, Republicans rejoiced when Ronald Reagan said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Almost 40 years later, Trump was able to tap into a segment of the population who feel disenfranchised and ignored; and one of the reasons they feel so disenfranchised and ignored is because every GOP candidate, pundit and political operative since Reagan have repeatedly told them that “government is the problem.”

We call this a self-fulfilling prophecy where behavior influenced by expectations cause those expectations to come true. Basically, the more you hear it, the more you believe it, and more it comes to fruition. It typically starts small—you are told the government is broken (by none other than its leader), so when you see the long line at the DMV the next week, your first thought is validating. This then leads to larger and more significant examples until you can no longer be convinced that the government does anything right.

If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.—William Isaac Thomas

Often, the negative effects of self-fulfilling prophecies are the product of an ambitious leader. When an individual is vying for power and wants to distinguish themself from the past, they might say something like, “the company is not the solution to our problem; the company is the problem.” The hitch is in the shortsightedness of the rhetoric.

Once the leader endorses the most awful perceptions of their organization by saying it is corrupt, heartless, incompetent, etc, they cannot then expect that once they are in charge, everyone will have faith in their leadership. That leader is now part of the system and is, therefore, victim to the new prescient of skepticism that they helped establish.

self-fulfilling-prophecyJust look at the long-standing GOP leaders. By making Reagan’s line the central tenet of the Republican’s political platform, it morphed beyond the GOP’s control—once someone believes that government is the problem, career politicians have no credibility since they are part of the government and, thus, part of the problem. As a result, those who once led the GOP and proudly echoed Reagan’s mantra find themselves on the outskirts of the party because they successfully perpetuated the self-fulfilling prophecy that they themselves should not be trusted.

When you “force-feed your audience a diet of outrage,” as written by Jake Cusack, you undermine trust—trust in your leadership, trust in the culture, trust in the organization’s ability to make the needed improvements. Authority is destabilized, good deeds are disregarded, and legitimacy is in question. But be warned, today they may cheer for you and your anti-establishment views; tomorrow they will rebel against you with the same fury that once fueled your ascent.

As a leader, consider the ramifications of feeding into the discontented beliefs of your less engaged staff. Instead of becoming the mouthpiece of disgruntlement, promote a culture of continuous improvement where the concerns of the disenfranchised are taken seriously and immediately addressed. Don’t minimize their grievances, but don’t exacerbate them either.

Start a self-fulfilling prophecy of optimism and positivity. Be the Reagan who worked towards improving the government through bipartisan cooperation, not the Reagan who used cynicism to rally his base. Your organization is relying on you for a hopeful vision of the future grounded in a realistic view of its current state. It is up to you to set this path.