2012 Series 003 – Meritocracy, Objectivity, and the Selfless Leader.

In my post on Meritocracy & Objectivity, I state that without Objectivity, the good intentioned logically sound meritocracy criteria can still be used to justify dysfunctional culture.

Some say that by asking “why” for 3 times, we might arrive at the root of an insight. So now we try to ask why 3 times. We asked “what are the components of meritocracy?”, we then asked “what meta criteria is important in meritocracy?”, now we ask “how do we achieve that meta criteria, i.e. objectivity?”

Easily from the title, Selflessness is key to achieve objectivity.

Let’s start by understanding the antithesis of Selflessness and how it prevents objectivity, and then we will proceed with how Selflessness allows objectivity.

The antithesis of Selflessness is Selfishness. Ego being allowed to thrive, materialize, and grow.

Ego destroys Objectivity, and it does this in 4 ways:

a. It allows cognitive biases to continue.

Unbridled ego allows a man to keep selecting information that support he believes, and prevents him from reading information that doesn’t support his believe. He/she simply could not hear things that are not congruent to his/her beliefs. The Egoistic man, the selfish man, finds what he thinks to be true, his ego reinforce his finding, certifies his finding, it even bring his finding home and put that “I am Right” on plaque and frame it on the bedroom wall to be seen every morning. Due to his ego, the selfish man cannot seek, hear, and process information that go against his thought and logic pattern, the selfish man loses objectivity.

b. It allows heart biases to flourish.

Heart biases happen when a man’s feeling heavily influence his worldview and decision making. He is prompted to do things and make decisions with his feelings being a more dominant factor. Someone hurts his ego, he feels shame, pain, and anger, and then, he Acted on these feelings. This behavior is truly childlike, but adults can have this behavior too, the only difference is adults have learned to do masking activities to hide what he feels.

But the adult can still succumbs to his feeling, inwardly, and make decision, silently secretly covertly, based on his feeling.

When we put this in a corporate context, where shareholder value and jobs are at stake, the consequences of inwardly childlike leader are harrowing.

Furthermore, not only he makes decision based on what he feels, the reasoning part is gone when he make this decision, or even helping him to develop justification for his decision.

A selfish leader is unaware of his/heart biases and how easy these biases destroy objectivity.

c. As the heart biases interact with the cognitive biases, they both reinforce each other.

Heart biases reinforce cognitive biases through prejudice, Cognitive biases reinforce heart biases through reasoning and paranoia.

When a selfish leaders is emotionally disturbed, his mind gather evidence to support his thinking process. Words are re-interpreted, body language are scrutinized.

When a selfish leaders is intellectually challenged by his team, his heart whispers to his mind, whispers of generalization, whispers of ad hominen arguments.

As the heart biases interact with the cognitive biases, objectivity cannot enter the leader’s heart and mind.

d. Ego prevents the selfish man to understand that he is selfish.

Ego covers the selfish man like sea waters covers a fish. It is totally surrounding him, but he cannot see it, for it is, his reality.

360 feedback at the office, feedback from a spouse, the honest words of a child. The selfish man finds feedback on his selfishness to be utterly ridiculous, No, he is simply not.

“None are more hopelessly enslave than those who falsely believe they are free” Goethe

We explored 4 ways in which a selfish man’s ego prevents him to objective, now, let’s move to how the lack of ego of a selfless man would make him objective.

The selfless man lack of ego allows him/her to be objective in 4 ways:

1. He allows others to show him himself

The selfless man lack of ego allows him to seek, hear, process, and accept feedback. Cognitive and heart biases are held at bay, and truth comes in.

As truth comes in about himself, he identifies things inside him that are un-truth, biases.

His lack of ego, allows him to understand how he can be –unobjective. It then allows a higher want, the want to be objective, to surface.

The interaction between the mind and the heart are now one that leads to higher ground, the willingness to be objective and the finding that he is un-objective.

2. He forgives

Instantly, immediately, like zero second after a wrong remark was said, either intentionally or unintentionally.

And by forgiving, his mind can stay on the issue, properly analyze the issue, correctly analyze the issue, minimizing biases,

he makes better analysis , analysis that considers all data, even from those that offended him

he reach better conclusion, conclusion that test assumptions and implication, even those that are not his own

and he make better decisions, decision that meets other’s interest, not just himself.

His understanding that he is un-objective and prone to further objectivity asked him to focus on objectivity.

3. He can take a distance from himself

By not needing to satisfy and feeds his ego all the time, the selfless man can put his ego to rest, and can take a distance to have a good look at his ego and himself.

As he can take a distance from himself, he can then do a magical thing, see the world from someone else’s point of view.

Now, the strength of his vision and insight is multiplied, whereas the selfish man has only 1 pair of eyes, his eyes, the unselfish man can have as many pair of eyes as deadline permitted.

His selflessness enables him to ask “how would you see this?”, “how do you see this?”, “what do you think is there?”.

He is objective not only because the ground where he used to stand is now clear with unobstructed view, but also because he can stand on other grounds as well.

4. He questions

As the above suggested, the selfless man are free to ask.

He has no ego that hankers to him, “stop asking, don’t ask, what if you found that you are wrong?”

The chains that prevent the selfish man to wander had been crushed, and the selfless man can go to any vantage points as he pleases.

Not only he can stand from another person’s ground and see their worldview, he can now ask his own assumptions, he can question other assumptions.

Identifying assumptions is easier for the selfless man.

And as he identify and question assumptions after assumptions after assumptions, the selfless man stand ever more consistent on the point of objectivity.

Meritocracy, objectivity, selflessness.

Let’s pursue and grow selfless leaders in our organizations,

for their considerations would be objective,

they would be trusted by their team, not just the “I think you’re a good man” trust, but also the “I think there’s a better way to do this” trust,

and meritocracy would be actively sought, tested, and assured.


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