Self-governance Is Critical for High Performance

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Self-governance is one of 6 critical leader values. As a reminder, those values are Self-governance, Humility, Sacrifice, Freedom, Value Others, and Truth. The first 5 are critical, but Truth is extremely important. It creates the foundation for the other 5 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 easily 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 important 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 a immediate desire. Sales and marketing tries to get you to focus on getting the product NOW. Self-governance walks past that temptation and focuses on the greater 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. But, self-governance helps you see beyond the task and decide to do good work no matter what the task. You will also believe in the long-term benefit. That shows up in research that says supervisors clearly enjoy people that aren't complainers.

A good 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 there is no one to reward or punish you. 

Increases What Is Good

Roy Baumeister wrote an outstanding book which is a great read - Willpower. 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 that demonstrate greater self-governance are overwhelmingly better off. Baumeister's research shows that a higher degree of self-control improves people's lives.

There is a direct correlation to high future income, high GPAs, lower rates of teen pregnancy, lower rates of sexually transmitted disease, and most 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 that is 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 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 a temptation, you need a lot of 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. If more of the people choose to do what they are asked, less oversight is needed. When each individual is their own oversight, the capacity of the organization 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 absolutely critical for you and for the organization.


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