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Honestly, Do You Believe You Can Design a Great Team? Model #3: Personal Agency/Locus of Control

4 Mental Thought Models:

Mental Thought Model #3: Personal Agency/Locus of Control

Personal Agency – Belief in my ability to generate my desired outcome.

The ability to direct one's own life and make decisions is what we mean when we talk about people having "personal agency," or free will. It's the conviction that one can control one's own life and realize their own goals by virtue of their own actions and choices.

Sometimes we hire an agent or a spokesperson to speak and make decisions on our behalf such as power of attorney, guardianship, or a lawyer. These representatives are necessary in areas or seasons of life, but when we go through life giving all our power to others, we lose all sense of self direction and lose hope of attaining personal significance and esteem.

Personal agency is the power within you to create the life you desire. It is the belief that you can shape your own destiny and the determination to act towards your goals, regardless of external factors.

External Locus of Control vs. Internal Locus of Control:

Locus of control is a psychological concept that refers to an individual's belief about the degree of control they have over the events that occur in their life. It describes how people perceive the cause of their success or failure, whether it is due to their own internal actions or external factors beyond their control. According to the locus of control theory, people who believe they have control over their lives have an internal locus of control, while those who believe their lives are controlled by outside forces have an external locus of control.

The concept of locus of control was first introduced by Julian Rotter in 1954, who developed a scale to measure it. Since then, researchers have investigated its impact on various aspects of life, such as job satisfaction, academic achievement, and mental health.

Locus of control is different from scarcity and abundant mentality which focuses on how the leader sees their world outside of them. It focuses on how the leader sees their own ability to be the primary influence of their future results. Another way to look at our locus of control is to view it through a responsibility lens. Am I fully responsible and able to speak on my own accord with personal agency, or at the mercy of external forces with little control over my future? Also, am I able to say “no” to the external influences that do not represent my best interests, and “yes” to those who will contribute to my personal edification.

External Locus of Control:

Individuals with an external locus of control view themselves as passive recipients of events and ascribe success or failure to external factors. They may also feel dependent on others when they can't meet their own demands.

Adults with an external locus of control think luck, fate, or others' actions affect their outcomes. As children, we are dependent on our parents, caregivers, and teachers, but as we develop, we should become self-sufficient. When a youngster becomes a legal adult and leaves home, they will need character to survive in this harsh world. Those unprepared will find themselves like a boat without an anchor being blown around by the wind and waves with no apparent direction or destination. Unfortunately, our younger generation has been raised in a culture that bombards their brains with external noise to compete for their attention. This creates a scarcity mentality and a fixed perspective that they will always be dominated by others.

As leaders, we must help our younger potential leaders overcome external noise and live their true lives. They need hope beyond the chaos and a purpose to take charge and embrace free will. Our youth need leadership, not condemnation.

Internal Locus of Control:

When someone has an internal locus of control, they believe that they can change the results of their actions by using their own skills, choices, and hard work. They believe that their deeds determine whether they succeed or fail, and they are accountable for what they do. It's not easy for them to give up when things go wrong because they don't see themselves as victims. A lot of the time, they feel good about themselves and are more self-assured.

Individuals who want to set and reach their own goals and standards need to have an internal locus of power. When we set goals with an internal center of control, we are more likely to be responsible for our actions and take the initiative to reach our goals. This way of thinking helps us stay focused and determined, even when things get tough.

To be self-disciplined and have personal impact, you need to develop an internal locus of control. You are not really using an internal center of control when you let your negative thoughts, personal bias, and fear decide what you do. If you have a healthy internal locus of control, you will replace bad, useless thoughts with healthy, useful ones on purpose. A healthy outward locus of control will follow a healthy internal locus of control. It will build a strong wall around the ideas that are contagious, keeping them out and letting in inspiring ideas that promote goodness and value. Because your mind made it happen, your external filter will show up. You will have full control over the mind gate. They always go hand in hand, but it all starts with what you believe.

Locus of Control's Impact on Individuals and Leaders:

Effects of Locus of Control on People and Leaders: It has been found that locus of control has a big effect on many areas of people's lives, such as their mental and physical health, job happiness, financial success, and ability to lead others well.

1. Mental and physical health:

Research has shown that people with an internal locus of control are healthier mentally and physically than people with an outward locus of control. They are more likely to have good self-esteem, be positive about life, and deal with stress well. It's more likely that they will do good things like exercise, eat a balanced diet, and go to the doctor when they need to. People who have an external center of control, on the other hand, feel more anxious, sad, and helpless. They have worse health results, like a higher chance of smoking and other addictions, bad eating habits, and less likely to go to the doctor.

2. Job Satisfaction:

The locus of power has also been shown to affect job satisfaction. People who have an internal locus of control are more satisfied with their jobs than people who have an outward locus of control. They are more likely to take on leadership roles, look for new tasks, and feel like they have agency over their work. They are sure of themselves and have a positive view of life. On the other hand, people who have an external locus of control are less satisfied with their jobs, less interested in their work, and less driven. They think their lives are out of their hands. They're right. It doesn't have to be this way, though.

3. Financial Success:

It has also been found that the locus of power affects how much money someone makes. In the business world, leaders who have an internal locus of control do better than those who have an external locus of control. They are more likely to make plans, set goals, be responsible for their own schooling, and go on missions that they oversee. They set limits for themselves that are in line with their own standards. On the other hand, leaders who seek control from outside sources tend to fail, not learn as much, and have firms that don't do well. They let things happen to them a lot.

4. Success as a leader:

The locus of power has also been shown to affect leadership growth. If a boss has an internal locus of control, they are more likely to help their team members set goals, take responsibility, and learn on their own. People who follow leaders who are responsible also follow leaders who are responsible. A leader with an external center of control, on the other hand, doesn't have as much power, isn't as motivated to lead others, and is more likely to have teams that don't do well. You can't get anything done if you think you don't have charge of it. Why even try?

5. Locus of control is contagious:

As a leader, you set the tone. For those who see you as a change agent—someone who steps up to lead and pave the way for the team—people pay attention. This is what they need. They've been looking for it. People who have that kind of self-leadership are inspiring, and others want to follow them, especially if they are given the chance to be in charge instead of just being passengers. Our team’s success will be determined by you.

Joel Smith

Business Coach, Author and Entrepreneur

This article is a section out of the book Team Design: Building Great Teams By Attracting the Right People. Download the Free PDF version.

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