Psychology Backs the Power of Developing a Positive Worldview, by Todd W. Hall, PhD

Overcoming the false beliefs underlying a negative worldview

You can’t directly change your worldview, but you can seek out new experiences that create the conditions for change. “Implicit Relational Trust” is a good place to start…

by Todd W. Hall, PhD • Rosemead School of Psychology

Positivity-vs-NegativityRecently I worked with a team that had a particularly insecure leader. As I observed him in action, and talked to co-workers, it quickly became apparent that he lacked self-awareness. When he spoke to his team, people cringed at his not-so-subtle attempts at self-promotion. He was constantly trying to prove his success to others. But he had no idea people were experiencing him this way. He micro-managed people, blew up at employees over seemingly minor things, and generally created conflict wherever he went.

This leader exhibited many of the beliefs of a negative or insecure worldview. These beliefs are important because the most ineffective, “self-focused” leaders habitually demonstrated these beliefs in a recent large-scale study and book called Return on Character by Fred Kiel.

BELIEFS UNDERLYING NEGATIVITY

This negative worldview includes 11 beliefs that are rooted in emotional insecurity. The key underlying beliefs of this worldview can be grouped into three categories: self, others, and goals.

False Views of Self

– It’s not important to understand what drives me.
– Personal meaning is derived from proving my success to others.

False Views of Others

– People are generally untrustworthy, so you should closely monitor them and not show kindness.
– Creating conflict helps you get at the truth of a situation.

False Views of Goals

– It’s better to focus on the short-term than the long-term.
– It’s better to avoid change unless I am in control of it.

 

Implicit Relational Knowledge

These beliefs are rooted in a lack of basic trust, lack of self-awareness, and lack of a positive sense of self-worth, which lead a person to constantly seek approval through achievements (an understandable coping strategy that doesn’t work in the long run). They are deep-seated beliefs that represent what psychologists call “implicit relational knowledge.” This is a form of experiential knowledge about how relationships work that is stored in a gut level form of memory called implicit memory.

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BELIEFS UNDERLYING POSITIVITY

The beliefs of a positive worldview are also deep-seated, but of a different order. The key beliefs of this worldview in the same three categories include the following:

Healthy View of Self

– Personal meaning is derived from growing and stretching my natural talents.

Healthy View of Others

– People are generally trustworthy.
– All people deserve the same respect, regardless of job status.
– Most people grow and change throughout their adult life (similar to what Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset”).
– Everyone has core strengths that should be engaged.
– The best managers have good relationship skills.

Healthy View of Goals

– All businesses share a responsibility to contribute to the common good.
– Leaders generally desire to leave the world a better place.

Here is how Kiel summarizes:

“While many seem to associate a negative and pessimistic attitude regarding human nature, personal purpose, and organizational life with the savviness of success, that idea couldn’t be more wrong. The Virtuoso leaders in our study clearly illustrate that the most successful leaders focus on what’s right about the world around them.” (p. 72).

Negative or Positive? Which Worldview Do You Hold?

So, do you hold a positive or negative worldview? It’s probably not an either-or, but reflecting on the various beliefs in each worldview can help you determine where your strengths and growth areas are in terms of your core beliefs. And it turns out that your worldview, consisting of deep beliefs, shapes and drives your relationships and behavior, and ultimately your impact, whether through informal influence, or a formal leadership position.

FOUR WAYS TO FOSTER A POSITIVE LEADERSHIP WORLDVIEW

Here are four ways to foster a positive leadership worldview.

  1. Become Aware of Your Filters and Develop New Lenses for Noticing the Positive.

The first thing you need to understand is that you don’t rationally choose these beliefs. As I mentioned above, they are implicit, meaning they develop and operate outside your conscious awareness. You can, however, proactively do things to change them and develop a more positive worldview. It starts with becoming aware that you have filters and then noticing them in action.

Notice that a lot of these beliefs Kiel uncovered are about people and how relationships work. Our relational filters are formed in early relationships with attachment figures and called “internal working models” in attachment theory.

Trust is the Key Relational Filter

The key relational filter here has to do with trust. If you find yourself habitually not trusting others at work in particular ways, it’s likely that important people in your life have not been trustworthy in these ways…

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Todd-Hall-LOGO-2014-may-e1400621894177Todd W. Hall, PhD is Professor of Psychology, Director of the Institute for Research on Psychology and Spirituality, and Editor of the Journal of Psychology and Theology, at Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University, in the Los Angeles area. He holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Biola University, and a doctoral specialization in measurement and psychometrics from UCLA. Using his expertise in clinical psychology, spirituality, leadership, and organizational development, Dr. Hall helps leaders and organizations maximize their potential and effectiveness.

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