What is ego depletion?
Ego depletion is a phenomenon whereby willpower depends on limited mental resources. As we make use of our willpower along the day, mental resources are depleted. It is a well studied phenomenon in the psychology and social psychology field. Even though there is not a full consensus in these subjects regarding the existence of this phenomenon, there are experimental proofs of its existence (Hacking Human Nature for Good, Dan Ariely).
Drawing from the premise of phenomena existence we will develop our post.
Decision making and ego depletion
Let’s place ego depletion into the decision making context regarding any management role within an organization (not only suitable for CEO’s). Decision making generates frictions in willpower. The number and complexity of choices provoke dramatically reductions in willpower resources. Taking into account this premise, a manager who must take a lot of choices along the day, is rolling the dice of willpower depletion and, in the long term, it is likely the burnout syndrome seize its chance.
Organizational resilience over individual willpower
It is true there are people with more willpower than others. Also is true theses variables are positive a priori indicators whenever we need to hire a manager but, all that glitters is not gold?. Must we bet so much on the willpower variable?
I don’t think so and I am going to explain it. Hiring people with more willpower than others (ceteris paribus) might hide, in the long run, certain matters into organizations. Maybe “no desirable situations” don’t come to light because of high willpower (they deal with themselves) when, these situations should go beyond. Furthermore, to rely solely on volatile variables like willpower puts organizations and persons in a weak position. On the other hand, true enough, during a crisis the presence of managers who have a strong willpower could be positive.
People with less willpower, far away from hindering, can work as a good sensors. They might detect something that is not working properly in advance. Moreover, hey could be a great incentive to increase professionalization.
Is it mandatory to take so many choices?
This sentence should be one of the fundamental questions an organization should wonder. Also it should to take into account another questions closely related to the last one:
- Which are the priority choices?
- How can I diminish the number and complexity of decisions?
- Is it plausible a decision making standardization?
There are several ways to reduce the number of choices and their complexity. Methodology implementations is maybe the most interesting one. Applying a checked methodology allows managers to deplete the frictions due to low resistance paths (low willpower diminution) maintaining organizational goals.
We are adaptive beings and, even the more complex choices took repeatedly tend to reduce the ego friction if they are standardized.
A good manager is not the one who take a lot of decisions.
A good manager is not the one who has a enormous willpower.
A good manager is a master of productive habits.
A good manager understands organizational methodologies as a mean to attain organizational aims, reducing the number and complexity of choices.