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Leaders, What’s Your Mental Model?

When my father died last month aged 86, one of his ex-colleagues wrote to me saying that dad had an enormous influence on his mental model: ‘He was a very significant influence on my approach to all the work I have done in this area [organisational psychology] and, essentially, how I think about people and how they work best together.’

Since then, I’ve been reflecting upon my own mental model. My own personal development ‘journey’ has included understanding my values and reflecting upon associated behaviours, understanding the world from a systems perspective and building my confidence and resilience.

Wikipedia defines a mental model as: ‘an explanation of someone’s thought process about how something works in the real world. It is a representation of the surrounding world, the relationships between its various parts and a person’s intuitive perception about his or her own acts and their consequences.’

Having the opportunity to reflect upon and articulate one’s own mental model should be a part of leaders’ personal and professional development much earlier than it often is, (or was in business schools in the twentieth century). Professor Roger Delves of Hult Business School says: ‘At Hult we teach students from across the world. We observe the “old behaviour” leadership approach learned from and rewarded by leaders and organisations which students must unlearn if they want sustainable success in the future:

1.     Competitive, task orientated, valuing power over influence

2.     Relationship averse, avoiding values level communication

3.     Poorly developed/valued supportive skills such as EI or coaching or the ability or willingness to engage in difficult conversations.

4.     Emotionally immature approaches to relationships or situations

5.     Predominantly self-directed in their decision making. ‘

In the twenty first century, leaders need to be resilient, collaborative and able to lead in complexity. For this they need to be strong and confident in their mental model, which means:

  • Behaving to reflect intentions
  • Behaving with integrity
  • Accessing values
  • Making decisions which are congruent with this moral or ethical framework

Who has had a significant impact on your mental model?

What is your mental model?

If you would like to work with me on articulating your mental model, please message me here.

Answering the questions for myself, I find that my father also had a profound influence on my own mental model – in his understated and facilitative way. Born in 1930, he was ahead of his time in understanding how people work best together. I was lucky to have him as my father and I’m proud that some of his colleagues felt this too.