Tag Archives: Compromise

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.

The One Way to Constructively Defuse an Argument

Constructive conflict is a healthy part of any organization. Deprived of it, we end up with a lack of innovation, status quos are not challenged, necessary questions are avoided, and there is a lethal amount of consensus. The key is how we address this conflict.

One way to face conflict is fast and furious. Like the multi-sequel movie franchise, we can follow Dom Toretto’s philosophy:

I live my life a quarter-mile at a time. Nothing else matters; not the mortgage; not the store; not my team and their bullshit. For those ten seconds or less, I’m free.

When we lead through a “quarter-mile at a time” mindset, we are likely to engage in such practical strategies as seeking compromise, utilizing empathy, avoiding blame, apologizing, and forgiving past actions. However, while these techniques can be effective, they do not work when we are in the midst of a heated argument where we feel emotionally invested. So how can we improve our ability to resolve our interpersonal conflicts?

According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, you are more likely to resolve conflict through superior reasoning strategies when you consider the situation in the long run. By distancing yourself from your current feelings, you are better equipped to unravel negative events and find resolution. Otherwise, according to another study, you are prone to ruminating, recounting, and re-experiencing the negative event indefinitely.

Still not convinced you are better off with a marathon (versus sprint) mentality? A study in Psychological Review found that imagining the future is a natural outlet to thinking more abstractly about an interpersonal conflict. Once we are able to transcend the present moment and put the negative events in context, we are less focused on recounting it and more focused on thinking about the bigger picture. And with enhanced adaptive reasoning strategies, the research reported that participants had a greater influx of positive emotions and insight.

To resolve conflicts, we need to think beyond a “quarter-mile at a time.” How will it pan out tomorrow, next week, and next year? It may not be as harrowing as a fast and furious solution, but the measure of successful leadership is not reliant on how quickly you reach the finish line.

When Did Opposition Become Obstruction?

In today’s political climate, there has been a focus on the “oppositional” party. How the “less represented” party tries to push their agenda forward has always been a talking point. The difference is in the tactics that have been used during the previous Presidential administration and have continued into the current one. It’s the difference between opposition and obstruction.

By definition, oppositional parties tend to be against the policies of the “ruling” party and/or person(s) in power. This is an important part of a democracy. Through debate and discussion, they ensure we retain checks and balances. The ruling party is held accountable and the views of a broader range of constituents are represented.

While oppositional parties work against those in power, traditionally they have also been willing to work with their foes to some degree, while retaining the focus on their agenda. That is the key differentiator between opposing and obstructing.

The duty of the opposition is to oppose.—Winston Churchill

Obstructionists are those members of the opposing party who refuse to not only work with those in power, but purposely block their opponent’s progress. It does not matter whether the decision is justified and reasonable, which it often is. It does not matter whether they agree with the progress being proposed, which they often do. And it does not matter whether the majority have the right/ability to make the change, which is often the case. An obstructionist’s goal is to stop the rival at whatever the cost.

The obstructionist knows that to give a little is to concede. The fallout is irrelevant as are the consequences of their actions. Even if an obstructionist loses, they can show that they are not complicit in the outcome. Could they have made the solution better with their insight? Sure, but then their supporters would think they’re weak and without core principles.

If there is a nuclear tactic being used here, I submit it is the use of that obstruction where a willful minority blocks a bipartisan majority from voting on the President’s judicial nominees.—John Cornyn, U.S. Senator

This was not always the case. Politic use to be about compromise; it use to be about taking part in the process without an instinctually defiant stance. When you disagreed, you argued your points. You bargained for your agenda. You helped shape the solution so it included some of your party’s input. But this only happens through participation…and obstructionists refuse to participate.

This is a lesson for leaders. If you want to make an impact, if you want influence within your organization, don’t allow your feelings of opposition to transmute into obstructionist behaviors. Removing yourself from the discussion does not mean you are more ideologically pure, it means you are giving others a valid reason to cut you out of the decision making. While you may not like what others are proposing, a willingness to compromise will allow your concerns to be heard and may shape the end-result in a way that makes it more palatable for those who oppose it. Or, you can cover your ears and repeatedly yell, “NO.” I’m sure your opponents didn’t want to hear your views anyway.

10 Leadership Quotes to Get You Through the Holidays

end of the yearAnother year, another list of great quotes that I wasn’t able to use in an article. So, in an attempt to kick off 2016 with a fresh list of topical pop culture references, the following are ten leadership quotes to inspire you through the holidays.

Jennifer Lawrence“Waking up without a purpose and going to sleep without achieving anything–like what other people call vacation or time off–makes me depressed.” —Jennifer Lawrence, Entertainment Weekly

Martin Short“I’m a writer who’s had to write out of duress. My brother-in-law, Bob Doleman is a writer, but a real writer. He wrote Willow, he wrote Far and Away. He’s always writing scripts… I write because I have an assignment. I’m going to host Saturday Night Live; I have to figure out what I’m going to do for the opening… I had a special a couple of years ago for CBC where I literally didn’t know what it was except I made the deal and then I said I gotta figure it out them. If there’s an assignment that’s the way I do it.”—Martin Short, Nerdist

Louis C. Kv“Whenever you leave behind failure that means you’re doing better. If you think everything you’ve done has been great, you’re probably dumb.” —Louis C. K., GQ

Adam Duritzg“I’m fascinated by anyone willing to obsessively strive for something… whether it’s becoming a scientist, or a ballerina, or a football player, I just think that’s really interesting to me and I identify with that because I’ve lived a lot of my life the same way.” —Adam Duritz, USA Today

RuPaul Charlesb“Progressive thinkers [are] people who think in terms of doing things in a way that is more effective.” —RuPaul Charles, WTF

Larry David“I remember when there was some interference from NBC with Seinfeld when we first started doing it, and fortunately I didn’t have a family at the time, so it was very easy for me to say to them, ‘No, I’m quitting. I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to do that and I can’t do it.’ And for me, it wasn’t a big deal to just pack up and go home… That’s the first piece of advice I’ll give anybody who wants to get into this: Don’t have a family for a while, until you’re successful, because it will just make it very hard to ever get out of things and you’ll always have to compromise.” —Larry David, NPR

Dax Shepard“People judge you by your actions, not by your intentions.” —Dax Shepard, Off Camera

Don Henley“[To trigger creativity] you do a simple task. I’ve written some of my best stuff while unloading the dishwasher because you’re distracted — and yet you’re not. I’ve read Zen masters talking about the same thing. Plus, of course, you get brownie points with your wife.” —Don Henley, Rolling Stone

Ronda Rousey“Somehow, self-deprecation is considered modesty and my confidence was considered arrogance, and it’s considered a bad thing to compliment yourself. We’re always told to compliment everyone around you and talk yourself down. I don’t know how we’re expected to look at ourselves healthily if we’re told to talk about ourselves negatively.” —Ronda Rousey, Esquire

Taylor Swift“I think the tiniest little thing can change the course of your day, which can change the course of your year, which can change who you are.” —Taylor Swift, Seventeen


Have a happy, healthy and productive new year! See you in 2016.


Yoda on Regulating Your Emotions

yodaAs we continue Star Wars Week, I am making every effort possible to contain my excitement for this weekend’s extravaganza. Like the Jedi Master I yearn to be, this ability to control my restlessness is an essential aspect of successful leadership. And who better to teach us than Dagobah’s own, Yoda.

Yoda is the ultimate sage of the Star Wars universe. You may argue that it’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, but Yoda taught Obi-Wan; hence, the sage of the sage is truly the ultimate of sages. One of Yoda’s primary lessons in utilizing the Force and avoiding the Dark Side involves the ability to regulate one’s emotions.

You will know [the good from the bad] when you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.

Yoda’s wisdom is supported by a recent study which found that an individual’s expression of frustration, anger, and dissatisfaction compromises their ability to act in a constructive manner. It precludes others from reacting favorably to their input and adversely affects performance, promotions, and growth opportunities. Additionally, leaders who display a lack of emotional self-control generate a culture of disengagement, poor communication, and generally low morale.

As leaders, we set the tone. If our go-to response is panicked and reckless then we are creating unrest. This sucks up the positive energy and replaces it with needless tension. Instead, minimize unhelpful distractions through the awareness and regulation of your emotions. A few practical steps include:

Taking Part in Introspective Activities. We are each capable of enhancing our attentive competence. Such practices as journaling, meditation, and regular physical activity are proven to increase the ability to direct focus, filter out distractions, and manage emotions. These activities may feel like an indulgence, but they are effective if done on a frequent basis.

Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

Prioritizing Your Attention. We are surrounded by distractions that undermine how we react to unfavorable situations. Multi-tasking, technology, and unfocused strategies divert our attention from what’s happening in the now. To conduct truly meaningful work, we can add value via facilitating (versus directing), one-on-one conversations (vs lecturing), and personalized motivation (vs ubiquitous “good jobs”).

A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was.

Conserving Free Time. We face intense demands on our time; it’s easy to blink and realize another week just went by. To maintain the emotional state for which you aspire, block out time on your calendar for weekly creative sessions. This will help replenish your mental energy and provide a sense of control, which is essential for emotional regulation.

In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.

Follow the path of Yoda to retain control over how you choose to display your feelings. Unless you lack a general sense of self-control (in which case leadership may not be your fore), it is not difficult to think before you react. But it does involve a conscious decision to determine how you want to be seen. If you want to be viewed as a “Jabba the Hutt,” act however you like, but if you want to be the “Yoda,” do not try to carefully pick your words and actions… “Do or do not. There is no try.”