The New Johari Window #3: Interpersonal Relationships and the Locus of Control

The New Johari Window #3: Interpersonal Relationships and the Locus of Control

Internal Locus of Control

I will use a rather simplistic (and perhaps nautically naïve) metaphor to distinguish an internal locus from an external locus. When an internal locus is assumed, we declare that we are captains of our ship. Furthermore, we declare that we are often (if not always) the motor that propels our ship through the water. We are not sailboats that depend on the fickle influence of the wind, nor are we whitewater kayaks that must cooperate with the powerful forces of turbulent water. As captains and ship’s motors we power ahead, oblivious to our environment. We expect external forces to capitulate to our will (captain of the ship) and energy (motor of the ship). This compelling, forceful and ultimately optimistic orientation is uniquely American. It rests firmly on the ideology of pragmatism and activism: “All right! What can we do about it! Let’s roll up our sleeves and get started!” It also resides firmly on the democratic (and individualist) assumption of free will and personal freedom. Emphasis is always being placed on the right of all citizens to exert an influence over—even determine—the course of their personal lives and the path being taken by their society.

We find that the assumption of internal locus of control resides in many different ideological camps. At one extreme, we find entrepreneurial capitalists who proclaim an internal locus through their emphasis on free markets, dog-eat-dog competition and individual achievement. Several recent studies suggest that corporate executives who are highly successful will usually hold an internal focus: they attribute much greater importance to their own role in achieving success than seems warranted. This bias is widely evident in books written by highly visible corporate tycoons who identify “the ten reasons,” “five keys” or “seven secrets” that have enabled them to make their company successful—usually ignoring fortuitous marketing conditions, favorable governmental rulings, or independent efforts made by their subordinates and predecessors.


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William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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