Self-governance Is Critical for High Performance

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Self-governance is one of 6 critical leadership values. As a reminder, those values are Self-governance, Humility, Sacrifice, Freedom, Value Others, and Truth. The first five are crucial, but Truth is fundamental. It creates the foundation for the other five values. (For more information about Truth, check out course 5 - Share Truth for Excellent Performance.)

When you hear self-governance, you may think about government. Our use can quickly adapt to that thinking, but our focus is on the individual.

Self-governance Is Critical for High Performance

Defining Self-governance

The dictionary defines self-governance as:

  • Exercising control or rule over oneself
  • Characterized by self-discipline or self-control
  • Control of one's emotions, desires, and actions by one's own will

Those definitions show the way we use the word. Self-control is an essential synonym for self-governance. With that in mind, our definition of self-governance is...

Passing up immediate gratification for future benefits.

Think about the way that will impact your life. If you develop the strength to think about future benefits more than current satisfaction, you experience more freedom. Why? Because you are making a choice rather than reacting to an immediate desire. Sales and marketing try to get you to focus on getting the product NOW. Self-governance walks past that temptation and focuses on the more significant benefit in the future.

It is like saving versus spending. Spending is often about feeling good now while saving is about the future. Or, you choose a good attitude when your boss asks you to take out the trash. If you don't have great values like self-governance, you will complain. However, self-governance helps you see beyond the task and decide to do good work regardless of the task. You will also believe in the long-term benefits. That shows up in research that says supervisors enjoy people who aren't complainers.

An excellent addition to the definition is

Doing the right thing when no one is watching.

You focus on a life of good values, so you do the right thing even when no one can reward or punish you. 

Increases What Is Good

Roy Baumeister wrote an outstanding book, Willpower, a great read. That is another word that aligns with self-governance or self-control. In his book, he gives some excellent research on the benefits of self-governance.

People who demonstrate greater self-governance are overwhelmingly better off. Baumeister's research shows that higher self-control improves people's lives.

There is a direct correlation between high future income, high GPAs, lower rates of teen pregnancy, lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases, and almost everything else most people want to achieve. Think about that! Most of the things that people want are directly associated with self-control. And most of the things that people do not want are associated with a LACK of self-control.

Helps Avoid Problems

And, here is something hard to understand when you first hear it. He says people with higher degrees of self-control don't tend to use their self-control. What? That seems contradictory, but here is what's happening.

Generally, you need to use self-control when a temptation is looming. Consider this picture. You are on the edge of the slippery slope to sin because of a temptation. When in the grip of temptation, you need much self-control to back away from the edge. And backing away is very difficult when you are on the edge. Most often, you end up sliding down the slippery slope.

But people with more self-control don't use their self-control because they don't go near the edge! Self-governance is best used to keep you away from the edge. You develop habits or patterns of behavior that eliminate the need to use massive amounts of self-control in an emergency.

That is extremely important because self-control is a finite resource and must be used wisely.

Helps You and Organizations Get More Done

Finally, self-governance is critical for organizations. It helps increase the capacity of the organization without adding more personnel. Think about it. Less oversight is needed if more people choose to do what they are asked. When each individual is their own oversight, the organization's capacity expands. That is why some companies can do so much more than others.

That is why GR8 Leaders are self-governing individuals, and they constantly teach and encourage self-governance. It is critical for you and the organization.


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avoid problems, get more done, high performance, increase organization capacity, increase team capacity, self-governance


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