Power is nothing without control

Recent research seems to indicate that people who master self-control tend to develop a rational, non-impulsive, thinking style but it also produces selfish tendencies, suffocates creativity or impulsiveness and discourages compassion/self-compassion


By Kevin-James Fenech

Kevin is the founder and owner of JOB Search - jobsearch.mt and FENCI Consulting fenci.eu.

Power is nothing without control’ are the words of a long-forgotten Pirelli advert. I treat them as words of wisdom.

The more self-control you have the more likely you are to be successful. Fact.

It is a well-known fact that self-control is as important as IQ as a determinant of success.

To quote a famous example: high self-control criminals are more ‘effective’ than low self-control ones. I am not suggesting you become a criminal but merely trying to point out that self-control is the key to success no matter the profession. Self-control and a high IQ increase the likelihood of success.

But what is ‘Self-control’? It is the ability to take command of your own thoughts, emotions, language and actions especially in high-stress situations. By doing so, you override impulses, thoughts, feelings and more likely to engage in rational thought before taking a decision. Example: I am hungry and buy junk food on impulse, or I am angry with my manager and fire him/her on the spot, or I am feeling unappreciated at work and apply for a vacancy with my current employer’s direct competitor. These are all examples of decision-making based on a lack of self-control.

Admittedly, I am a big fan of self-control and consider it as a prerequisite to any success. Yet recently, I came across research about the ‘Dark side’ of self-control which kind of opened my eyes to a different perspective. I had never heard of a ‘dark side’ to self-control except in Star Wars where Jedi’s exhibit great self-control and it is, in fact, the dark side itself which tends to be weak to anger, megalomania, anger, jealousy, etc.

However, recent research seems to indicate that people who master self-control tend to develop a rational, non-impulsive, thinking style but it also produces selfish tendencies, suffocates creativity or impulsiveness and discourages compassion/self-compassion.

In fact, what I have observed from years of interviewing is that candidates who display high levels of self-control tend to be high achievers but they are extremely selfish which in modern work cultures populated by millennial employees might not necessarily be a good trait to have as a future or existing leader. Today’s work environment tends to lean in favour of a more flexible and adaptive leadership style which calibrates ‘self-control’ according to the audience; sometimes you need a lot of it whilst other times you need to tone it down. If interested in the subject, you can read up about it by searching ‘Hershey and Blanchard: Situational Leadership II’.

There is a small but growing body of research, which believes that there is a dark side to self-control. By this I am referring to ‘control junkies’ who become overly risk averse; who find it hard to switch-off (which typically leads to burn out); gravitate towards perfectionism; who are excessively rigid and rule governed; and constantly mask their true and inner feelings.

According to Professor Michail D. Kokkoris, Vienna University, and Professor Olga Stavrova,Tilburg University, ‘self-control’ can, therefore, restrict emotional experiences; may lead to long-term regret; can lead to increased workload; can result in feeling self-alienated especially if one has to suppress his/her true self; can be used for ill, and can lead to bias.

This having been said, I think the modern day leader still needs to exhibit great self-control yet simultaneously, and perhaps paradoxically, the leader needs to be able to sharpen his/her intuition (6th sense). By this I mean, decisions can’t always be rational and sometimes your intuition (if trained), is far more accurate and effective. Granted you have to train and cultivate your 6th sense. This can be done by learning to read your emotions; sharpening your perception (pay attention to the small things); by studying other peoples’ body language; becoming sensitive to the energy different people give, and using meditation to quieten the mind. Personally, I think this is the future of leadership; this is what will give leaders that cutting edge.

‘Power is nothing without control’ but it can be so much more effective if accompanied with Jedi like ‘gut instincts’ which are allowed to influence your decision-making. So learn to balance self-control with a re-awakened 6th sense.

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