What is Indoctrination ?
“Indoctrination” is an interesting and important word in the field of leadership. According to the dictionary the definition of the word indoctrination is “ the process of repeating an idea or belief to someone until they accept it without criticism or questioning”. Some dictionaries define it as “the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically”.
In most of our organisational leadership styles, we knowingly or unknowingly try to indoctrinate by our own sets of ideas, beliefs and behaviours. Even our visions sometimes are basically an indoctrination exercise. This happens when we start the process of imposition, rather than conviction, without the discussion approach. Discussion is a bridge that lets leadership cross the uncertain river of imposition to the safe end of conviction.
Leaders Are Allowed To Fail
In leadership roles many a times the most rational person also becomes victim to this phenomena. We want our own point of view to get dominated and that too without any rational evidence. We also avoid any discussion on it so that our own ideas gets highlighted and does not come under scrutiny. Once we start holding certain unfounded ideas more dearer to us we generally think it to be true. We take it personally and feel that if our own ideas and concepts gets rejected it means rejection of our leadership as well. But this is not the case. Leadership in an organization is a continuous self improvement exercise in decision making. Leaders are allowed to falter and fail. We all falter but the way we falter is what matters more.
The way leadership style dominates there is no chance of open review of the leadership‘s vision or the style within the organisation. The only way out is the discussion part before the imposition process begins. Thus the discussion part becomes more important than anything else. The lack of discussion actually means the loss of conviction which ultimately ends in the silent start of Indoctrination.
There is another area where leadership by indoctrination occurs when we try to form groups within an organization. As a leader we have a certain tendency to have our own set of loyal followers within the organization. This starts the first step in the direction of Indoctrination culture. When we are aiming for loyal followers we are actually asking for loyal believers in our sets of ideas and beliefs. A loyal and a permanent subscriber to any idea is a potential candidate for cognitive bias.
The Great Danger
The greatest danger of Indoctrination is that it is a continuous process of creating cognitive bias in decision making. The long term effect is that imagination, innovations and creativity may be lost forever in such indoctrinated organisations. Critical examinations of the strategic issues along with evidence for the same is a critical aspect of leadership. The whole foundation of leadership is dependent upon the concept of continuous evaluation and examination. That is why a great philosopher once said that “ the unexamined life is not worth living".
The Ten Signs Of Indoctrination
The question then arises as to how the organization can protect itself from such a style of leadership. Or for that matter how can any leader know if their style of leadership is influenced by the “Indoctrination” process.
There are few attributes and signs by which anyone can identify the Indoctrination influenced leadership style. Just pay a little attention to the ten (10) signs enumerated below:
- It is a continuous process
- It acts on both the individual and the group
- It is about the ideas and beliefs
- It is about the narrative and not the fact
- It generally has negative connotations
- It is an unidirectional imposition strategy
- Review and Questioning are not allowed
- It is not an evidence and proof based activity
- It is not a consensual procedure
- It desires to change the thinking process in a preconceived direction
If any of our leadership actions are highly influenced by the ten attributes as mentioned above, it indicates a progression towards the indoctrination culture. This is where course correction is immediately required. The birth of indoctrination is the start of the demise of the organization.
The Convincing Leadership
The leadership must try to convince the organisation through the process of discussion. A leader has to be more convincing than anybody else in the organisation with regard to the decisions. The process of indoctrination culture when it starts is difficult to roll back in any organisation. It will have long term cascading effects on the leadership of the mind. Leadership by Indoctrination is a one sided, unexamined and prejudged road where there is a higher chance of organizational failure both in process as well as in its results.