Implicit Leadership Theory

What were the traits of your favorite supervisor over the years? Is there a certain approach that a potential customer will appreciate more so that they’ll want to purchase something? What skills does an experienced team have that allows them to make a positive impact? How do the best and worst leaders behave on a daily basis?

Each of these questions has a specific answer associated with it that is based on one thing: your own personal perspective. One person’s terrible supervisor is another person’s best supervisor they’ve ever had. The difference is in the assumptions that are made in the answers of each question. Those assumptions are the foundation of the Implicit Leadership Theory.

You Might Call Them Educated Guesses

We don’t have all of the information we’d like to have about any given person or situation, no matter how well we know someone or how experienced we are. We must make assumptions at some point in order to fill in the gaps. By taking the available information that is around us, we can make an educated guess about that information so that a completed decision can be made.

That’s why there is such variation within the Implicit Leadership Theory. Each person has unique observations that are made, even when circumstances are the same, because of their culture, their gender, their personal faith, and their upbringing. These influences create the assumptions that are made and then actions are taken on those assumptions.

Many of us have deeply buried assumptions that we don’t even think about, but they do get brought out with this leadership theory. If you believe that most leaders should be men, then you won’t use gender neutral language when referring to leadership. You’ll use male nouns and pronouns. The same is true for those that believe most leaders should be women. What we subconsciously accept and reject, based on personal experience, is what will become the foundation of every assumption that is made.

Can Personal Observations Be Changed?

To change how someone observes any given circumstance, their experiences must also change. This is why people who are older tend to have a different perspective on life than those who are younger. It isn’t uncommon for people to regret some of the choices they made when they were younger because of the experiences they have learned over time. Yet there, in that moment when they were young, the assumptions they made based on their current experiences told them that they were making a great choice.

This is why training is such an integral part of an organizational culture. Organizations have just as much influence on a person’s experience, and eventually their assumptions, as their upbringing can. With proper training, most employees can be brought to a place where they’ll make similar assumptions, act on them in a similar way, and create higher levels of consistency.

When that is achieved, an organization has a great chance to experience a high level of success.

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