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Why We Have a Leadership Crisis - Part 3 | No Defaults

A large study in 2003 ( showed that even though 85% of Americans approved of organ donation, only 28% actually signed a donor card. Meanwhile, thousands of people died waiting for an organ match.

The study also uncovered that countries who had a default policy of organ donation, such as Austria, Belgium, and France, had increased donor rates by over two million. In those countries, those who did not want to donate their organs upon death could opt out (before they died, obviously).

The countries with higher participation did so on defaults.

Defaults are important. In cases such as organ donation, they are a matter of life and death.

Defaults are what happens when a choice isn’t made.

Decision fatigue is a real thing. We cannot make all the decisions that are thrown at us in a day - it’s impossible. To prevent going crazy, we don’t spend time considering each decision, but rather allow defaults to make some decision for us.

The problem is, too many of us allow the rapidity of our hurried and harried lifestyle determine all of our defaults, which are what mainstream society suggests. (Note: Mainstream society only cares about revenue and increased sales, not you.)

Because we do not take time to hone our internalized moral perspective - our personal values - we don’t create personal defaults and we allow ourselves to become assimilated as a society skimmer.

Society skimmers skim over the top of life. Flying by the seat of their pants. Reactive rather than proactive. Experience a lot of surface emotions and rarely make time to dive deep.

Without a deep dive on a fairly consistent basis, we can never expect to avoid crises.

Without deliberate mooring of our personal values, our defaults will be whatever others suggest.

There’s no strategy.

There’s no intentional forward movement.

There’s no clear vision of who you are in the future.

Since World War II, the machine we call public relations has been pumping out advertisements with the single intention of convincing us that our wants are really needs.

And it’s working.

On an average day, we see upwards of 4,000 ads. We can’t make a decision on each one, and we are often fatigued, so instead of taking time to determine our defaults, we let society set them for us.

Leadership is no different. Leaders are presented with an average of 35,000 decisions a day. This is in addition to the ads and personal decisions.

Leader, if you feel tired, it’s for good reason.

Because we have so much leaning on our decisions, we too often let defaults make decisions for us.

Defaults are necessary for survival. However, societal defaults can never be good all the time.

Good defaults coincide with personal values.

Leaders who do not make time to set personal defaults driven by internal values will always be in a crisis.

What’s the crisis? Making poor decisions.

Take a look at this logic backed by research (

If society matches your personal values, then not taking time to formulate your own defaults isn’t an issue.

However, I venture to guess that very few of us completely agree with society in every aspect.

Statistically, each of us differs from societal norms on at least a few things.

If you differ from society and yet you allow societal defaults to make decisions for you, you are welcoming cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance creates anxiety, discomfort, and stress.

Like we need more of that in our lives.

If enough cognitive dissonance builds up we become worse at decision-making.

So, because we are tired of making decisions, we let society’s defaults make decisions for us; these decisions don’t always match our personal values and cognitive dissonance compounds. As the dissonance grows, we make worse decisions.

Ironic, isn’t it?

To avoid the crisis of becoming consistently bad decision-makers, we must:

  1. Know our personal values

  2. Set defaults based on personal values

By the way, cognitive dissonance not only causes conflict and confusion internally, but also negatively affects our relationships.

We cannot be WITH when experiencing cognitive dissonance.

While we may perceive it's easier to go with the suggested default, in the long run it's the first bad decision that promises more bad decisions.


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