Locus of Control, Decision Making and Success
As Psychologists, we use the term locus of control to describe the “degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control”. Understanding of the concept was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, and has since become a core element to Business Psychology.
A person's "loci" (plural of "locus", Latin for "place" or "location") are conceptualised as internal (a belief that one's life can be controlled) or external (a belief that life is controlled by outside factors which they cannot influence, or that chance, fate or other people control their lives).
Individuals with a strong internal locus of control believe events in their life derive primarily from their own actions: for example, when receiving exam results, people with an internal locus of control tend to praise or blame themselves and their abilities. People with a strong external locus of control tend to praise or blame external factors such as the teacher or the exam.
Having an internal locus of control is related to having a Winning Attitude, and as such is an important attribute for a leader to have, because it means that the individual takes accountability for their mistakes and don’t have a tendency to blame mistakes or outcomes on external factors. We actively recruit and assess leaders who have an internal locus of control, however we are not clear what proportion of leaders actually believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control.
At the Hopkins Longworth event on 10th October, Dr Amanda Potter talked about Living in an Age of Uncertainty. During the event she asked 35 HR and Talent Directors “what proportion of your leaders are accountable and have an internal locus of control”. The graph below shows the locus of control of managers and leaders, according to their HR and Talent counterparts.
The HR and Talent leaders believed that on average 41% of leaders were rated having an internal locus of control, however the range of scores varied enormously between leaders and organisations.
Having an internal locus is one of the core decision making preferences related to problem solving success. In relation to business specifically, leaders with an internal locus of control are advantageous because they take accountability for the outcomes, rather than leaving things to chance.
If you would like to understand the extent to which your leaders have an internal locus of control, you can use the Decision Styles questionnaire:
The BeTalent Decision Styles is an online questionnaire that measures the risk taking, decision and judgement and locus of control behaviours required within the hiring organisation. The questionnaire measures 10 factors of decision making.
To find out more about the Decision Styles questionnaire and other BeTalent products, contact the BeTalent team on 0208 645 0227.