The Making of A Hero: Overcoming One Of Life’s Biggest Fears
Overcoming the Janus Effect. How an understanding of it can break you free of it. And perhaps most important: Why are men highly susceptible and women uniquely immune from it?
The Janus Effect comes into play in business or politics the moment an alpha male leader makes a decision that is dead wrong. At this moment, none of the people he has hand-picked for his inner circle seem to be able to go against his wishes because, as his followers, they know exactly what he wants and expects. For those in his inner circle, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to go against the leader’s wishes even if he asks them point blank: “Give me your opinion!”
Decisions made under the Janus Effect by an alpha male leader are so powerful because the team members will constantly reinforce the alpha male leader’s mindset. They are unable to make a different decision because they believe that to go against their leader carries the risk of becoming ridiculed, ostracized or even exiled from the group.
Ostracism once meant certain death.
We need look no further back than our evolutionary history to a time when male hunting groups were led by a strong alpha male. In the same way that a wolf pack sticks together, members of an alpha male’s inner circle stick together. Their deepest fear is to be told point-blank by someone who is deadly serious: “John, You’re not being a team player!” The deeply internalized fear of the team turning against them, of being isolated or exiled, is too much to bear.
So what’s the solution?
The solution requires a leader to surround themselves with an inner circle or cabinet that represents a unique balance of trait strengths.
In a modern context, empathy, collaboration and diplomacy are stabilizing traits. They balance out the effects of competitive, “winner take all” thinking and bring a diversity of ideas to decision-making that can lead to breakthrough thinking.
In this context, the ability of US Defense Secretary, James Mattis to quit the Trump administration — in protest of a decision he strongly disagreed with — could be called an act of heroism.
An Act of Heroism
General Mattis’ ability to resist the intense pressure and hard-knuckle tactics from party leadership stands out from the others who have left Trump’s inner circle. Why? His resignation was done as a protest against policies that were not aligned with his values.
The others were either forced to resign, fired, or indicted.