The New Johari Window #3: Locus of Control
Internal Locus of Control
I will use a rather simplistic (and perhaps nautically naïve) metaphor to distinguish an internal locus from an external locus. When an internal locus is assumed, we declare that we are captains of our ship. Furthermore, we declare that we are often (if not always) the motor that propels our ship through the water. We are not sailboats that depend on the fickle influence of the wind, nor are we whitewater kayaks that must cooperate with the powerful forces of turbulent water. As captains and ship’s motors we power ahead, oblivious to our environment. We expect external forces to capitulate to our will (captain of the ship) and energy (motor of the ship). This compelling, forceful and ultimately optimistic orientation is uniquely American. It rests firmly on the ideology of pragmatism and activism: “All right! What can we do about it! Let’s roll up our sleeves and get started!” It also resides firmly on the democratic (and individualist) assumption of free will and personal freedom. Emphasis is always being placed on the right of all citizens to exert an influence over—even determine—the course of their personal lives and the path being taken by their society.
We find that the assumption of internal locus of control resides in many different ideological camps. At one extreme, we find entrepreneurial capitalists who proclaim an internal locus through their emphasis on free markets, dog-eat-dog competition and individual achievement. Several recent studies suggest that corporate executives who are highly successful will usually hold an internal focus: they attribute much greater importance to their own role in achieving success than seems warranted. This bias is widely evident in books written by highly visible corporate tycoons who identify “the ten reasons,” “five keys” or “seven secrets” that have enabled them to make their company successful—usually ignoring fortuitous marketing conditions, favorable governmental rulings, or independent efforts made by their subordinates and predecessors.