Leaders facing “cognitive dissonance”


I had to take quite a bit of psychology in my past and there is a concept I learned called “Cognitive Dissonance” that really becomes highlighted in a postmodern climate.  Cognitive dissonance is defined by the dictionary as “anxiety or an uncomfortable feeling that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like.”

It can occur in many areas of life but it is particularly evident in situations when a person’s behavior conflicts with beliefs that are integral to his or her internal self-identity.    An example would be a situation in which a woman who values financial security is in a relationship with a man who is financially irresponsible.  There is a conflict in what she believes and how she lives.  Her beliefs conflict with her desires.  When pressed about it by close friends or family members you will usually see some form of cognitive dissonance.

In a postmodern climate in which there is no absolute truth.  Everyone has their version of truth based on their upbringing, culture, education, and associations.  According to a postmodern mind no one’s truth is any better than any others.  But what about when a person’s version of truth they allegedly hold in their own view (my truth) begins to conflict with other truths they hold in their life?  When challenged about these inconsistencies cognitive dissonance will surface.

We live in a day when leaders need to be clear.  Being clear is not being narrow-minded in a way that arrogantly thinks one knows it all, while judging all others. The greatest leader who ever walked the face of the earth was Jesus Christ.  People didn’t have a hard time knowing what He believed. At the same time He refused to be trapped into narrow-minded perspectives by people trying to discredit Him.

I watched a couple of recent interviews with leaders who were put on the hot seat being ask several challenging questions.  The interviewers were obviously trying to trip them up.  The interesting thing about the interviews, even if you don’t like the leaders or their positions, was you could see a bit of the struggle the first one had facing cognitive dissonance (towards the end of the video) while the second remained very clear  about his internal beliefs (and made sure he expressed them clearly even-though the interviewer tried to disorient him with cognitive dissonance).  Here are the videos.  The second two are little lengthy but worth watching.


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