The 3-second “E-Test” will instantly tell you if you’re a selfish leader

Ready for the 3 second “E-Test”? Here we are.

With your index finger, trace the capital letter “E” on your forehead. In fact go do it.

How did you do? Did you pass the test?

Assuming you have basic literacy, I guess you were able to plot it correctly. Nice! But, sorry, that’s not the test. The real test is how you traced the letter. Let me explain.

So you started with the long vertical line of the “E”. Good. Now the real question is, in which direction did you draw the three short horizontal lines? To the right? Or on the left?

If you traced them to the right, you formed the “E” shape in its correct orientation. But here’s the catch. This correct orientation comes from your perspective, not someone else’s. If you traced the letter to the left, you formed the incorrect “Ǝ” shape. Wrong for you. But correct to someone else who can watch you draw the E.

It means more than you think.

It is an indication of selfishness versus altruism

Psychology professors Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer have come up with a simple but revealing trick to tackle leaders’ behavioral tendencies toward selfishness or altruism. What they found was that leaders who plotted it the right way (from their perspective) had a greater degree of self-direction. And those who traced it the other way around for the perspective of others had a greater degree of orientation to others.

A person with strong self-orientation is likely to promote aspects of self. This self-centering bias is exemplified by people’s strong agreement with statements such as “I often do my own thing” and “I like it when I outshine others.”

A person with a strong orientation to others is likely to promote aspects of others and prioritize relationships with close others in their life. This other-focus bias is exemplified by people’s strong agreement with statements such as “My co-workers’ well-being is important to me” and “I would sacrifice a task/activity that I very much enjoy if my teammates didn’t do it.” didn’t approve.”

The type of leader you are (and want to be)

Psychologists have confirmed that E-to-the-self tracers tend to be more male, American, and in higher positions. While E-to-the-other tracers tend to be more female, European and/or Asian, and less senior. But these patterns, I suspect, are bound to change in the near future.

The leadership landscape is changing. What was a slow burn for the past decade has recently caught fire and given way to what we call the “Human Leader”, or perhaps more accurately, the “Humane Leader”. Concepts like servant leadership and authentic leadership have been around for a while, but it took a pandemic and the associated reinvention of work to force organizations large and small to really question their models of leadership.

What we notice is that to lead effectively and be good at their job, leaders don’t need to compromise between being competent and being caring. You can do difficult things in a human way. You can be good at your job and be a good human being. It’s not either/or. It is both/and.

E upside down for future leaders

Here is my guess then. As organizations continue to reinvent themselves and leaders are forced to follow suit or be fired, my prediction is that we will see more E-to-others tracers (other-oriented people) and less E -self tracers (self-oriented people).

But there is work to be done. There is still a large sample of bad bosses whose ego-fueled motivations drive them to see everything from their own perspective and make gains at all costs, including their employees. This “efficient” logic worked for a century, but it is on the way out.

Here are some tips as the leadership story continues to change and your own story changes with it: You may think you’re doing things backwards, but remember that this probably seems the right way for people. others.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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