Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Let me Think about this

Written by: on April 16, 2024

Shane Parrish has a lot of information packed into his book Clear Thinking. His premise is that individuals  have the ability to shape their future by taking control of their actions one small step at a time.[1]  As a businessperson and entrepreneur, he draws on his many and varied experiences. Throughout the book he relies on experts in fields such as behavioral economist, Daniel Kahneman and social psychologist Johathan Haidt, and others when discussing concepts that rely on empirical knowledge[2]. There are many concepts that could stand on their own or have connections to other authors such as Eve Poole and templating[3].

However, for the purposes of this blog, I chose to focus on the defaults or the instinctive way of reacting to things or situations rather than responding from a place of clarity. The four that Parrish lists  are those that have the potential to derail leadership when they are out of sync. However, when a person understands them, makes needed changes, and learns to harness them for the greater good, growth potential is enhanced[4].

The reason I chose them is because as I was reading, I could see different times when some of the defaults were working either in me or another person. It seemed worth exploring. I also chose this aspect because I think that awareness of the impact of these default instincts is one more factor that builds overall awareness that has been a theme throughout this semester.

The four defaults instincts are:

  • Emotion relates to responding to feelings instead of seeking concrete details. Some of the emotions that get in the way are anger, fear, or threat. When we respond in an angry way doors close. If it rises to the level of outrage, someone could get hurt, or jobs can be lost[5].
  • Ego is about protecting self-image[6]. At its worst, it can lead someone to become self-aggrandizing with little earned confidence[7]. How does someone feel good about themselves in relation to their position compared to others? Another author we read, David Rock, also addressed how status when jeopardized in the workplace can impact performance[8].
  • Social is about fitting in with society but can be exacerbated by a fear of being left out. It causes someone to not want to stand out, take responsibility or think for themselves [9].
  • Inertia keeps someone doing something that has long since lost its meaning. It is like being stuck in a rut of inaction.

Awareness has been a theme throughout this semester. Parrish follows suit in this respect. He says that being aware what the default instincts are and how they can impact us negatively is an important first step to making any changes. With all of the default instincts there are steps that can be taken to reprogram them. But in order for that to happen, a person needs to be aware that they are operating using a default that is detrimental.

Several years ago, I hired a senior leadership employee to be responsible for many aspects of our service delivery. He came to our organization with a lot of experience, a good recommendation, and a personable affect. However, about 6 months after he joined us, I got several minor complaints about him. As I checked things nothing seemed insurmountable or all that serious. Concerns were addressed and rectified where needed. Every once in a while, another complaint would come but he always had the proper back-up to show that whatever was needed happened. About a year later I noticed that the morale of our leadership team was beginning to show signs of decline. When I started asking different questions, the leadership employee was always the center of the turmoil. Usually, at the senior director level I do not need to micromanage someone. However, with careful scrutiny he couldn’t live up to the standards and I terminated him. I think it took too long because of my inertia. He was a nice guy and had all his paperwork in order whenever I needed it to show his work was done. But those reasons do not matter. I missed it until I became more fully aware. I also realized that hiring someone at his level could be another long and difficult process. In retrospect that, too, may have played into my inertia. Moving forward, I still do not micromanage my direct reports, but my monthly check ins with them are more intentional, for them and for me.

In some ways this book was an easy read but the fact that I could see connections to other authors and situations made it worth the time. It was helpful to see different ways to look at how people naturally respond. Clear thinking comes when we recognize our defaults and then can reprogram them to function in a way that is beneficial rather than harmful. It requires awareness, courage, and strength of will put aside whatever is holding us back. By building stronger good defaults, it will be helpful when inertia can take over and make those good reactions be the habits that are hard to uproot on the road to success[10].

[1] Shane Parrish, Clear Thinking, Turning Ordinary Moments into Extraordinary Results 9New York, NY: Penguin Random House, 2023), XV.

[2] Parrish, 253.

[3] Eve Poole, Leadersmithing, Revealing the Trade Secrets of Leadership, (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017), 11.

[4] Parrish, 10-11.

[5] Parrish, 13.

[6] Parrish, 16.

[7] Parrish, 17.

[8] David Rock, Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long  (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2020),

[9] Parrish, 24.

[10] Parrish, 40.

About the Author

Diane Tuttle

8 responses to “Let me Think about this”

  1. Elysse Burns says:

    Hi Diane, Thank you for sharing this story about a past employee. Kari and I had to navigate a similar situation with one of the clinic’s nurses last summer. However, rather than a drop in morale, she encouraged staff to make outrageous demands of the administration. It was maddening. Fortunately, one week, she decided not to show up to work. I know you recently had to lead your team through scary, tense workplace events. Did you recognize any moments of “defaulting” but were able to recalibrate them as you were navigating the situation?

    • Diane Tuttle says:

      Hi Elysse, We do annual evaluations in Jan. and quarterly I now review goals with each person so neither of us will be surprised at the end of the year if goals aren’t met. With the pandemic not an issue, I also see a lot more than anyone did during that time. If there is a problem, people are not hesitant to talk to HR or me. Thanks for asking.

  2. Jeff Styer says:

    One more reply and question for you this semester. Nice post. I have often seen when inertia is hard to break. I think one of the ways it shows up in my life is with my vehicles. How much money do you continue to pour into a vehicle before you have to let it go. We have two that are nearing that point. I understand how you can ask the same question regarding an employee. Was there a particular safeguard or other concept that Parrish discussed that you want to incorporate into your administrative toolbelt, or pass on to the next director?

  3. Diane Tuttle says:

    Hi Jeff, I should have read your question before answering Elysse. I think the answer I gave to her is pertinent to what you are asking too. Thanks for asking.

  4. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Diane,

    As a CEO, what is your experience with your team members as you illustrate the importance of awareness in recognizing and addressing detrimental default instincts in decision-making processes?

  5. Diane Tuttle says:

    Hi Shela, It is interesting that you would ask that question. We are doing a leadership inservice next month and I think I am going to touch on some of these things with them. Right now most of my interactions are on the senior staff level. The inservice is a fun time for me to be with all levels of people in different middle management positions.

  6. Daren Jaime says:

    Hi Diane. Thank you for sharing this as I was reflective in my own space. Making those personell moves really resonated with me as I think about how I have been late in pulling the plug on a couple of administrative decisions that could have benefited the ministry better had I not acted sooner. Besides inertia, which other default really spoke to you and why?

    • Diane Tuttle says:

      Hi Daren, That is a good question. I think because I work with a vulnerable population, emotion would be the piece to kick in if I thought they were being harmed in any way, physically, socially, or emotionally if solutions evaded our capacity to remedy. When the neighbor threatened our group home residents and staff, my first response was safety for them. If I didn’t think we had a way forward, I completely see how my emotions might have colored my response. Thanks for asking.

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