Mental Laziness

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership, 4-ExtPost, Blog

Just the Facts


One of the attributes of strong leaders is curiosity. But curiosity takes much work. And brain work takes energy—science tells us that the human brain consumes about 20% of our total body energy budget. That’s why another common trait for solid leaders is keeping themselves in good physical condition. They pay attention to their mental and physical health through good exercise, diet, and sleep habits.


One of the many benefits of following through on curiosity is challenging the information we’re receiving. Discussions with business leaders around their plans to handle employee concerns during the pandemic pointed this out. The group discussions centered on what sources each leader was using, why, and their interpretation of the information.

Conspiracy Theories

An interesting and non-partisan discussion around conspiracy theories ensued when a member of our leadership group expressed frustration over a family member’s concerns around vaccinations. There were lots of nods around the table. The consensus is that it isn’t just family members but friends and employees falling prey to misinformation and conspiracy theories.

“Those who believe without reason cannot be convinced by reason.”

—James Randi

The resolution the group came up with around their workplace and employees was to follow the OSHA guidelines, put a clear policy in place, and not engage in any attempt to change people’s minds about their views on vaccinations. I’m happy to report that all the group members’ companies are back to work and have established a new normal. Either everyone is back in person (those in manufacturing), remains fully remote (IT and software development), or has a hybrid policy clearly defined to ensure all employees are treated the same way and have the same opportunities for career growth.

Mentally Active

We all believe things that we haven’t spent the energy to investigate. After all, we don’t have unlimited time or energy, so we have to pick and choose. One way this group solved the problem was to establish vetted sources for their information. They found experts in scientific disciplines, leadership development, business acumen, and geopolitics. And when it came to social constructs, they went out of their way to find differing views so that they could make up their mind after exploring differing realities.

Another trait of leadership in general, and this group in particular, was a willingness to postpone judgment. They did not assume that because a member of their team had a view different from their own, they were somehow inferior. Instead, they sought to have differing opinions in the staff meetings. They expressed discomfort if their team came to a consensus too soon.

My conclusion is that strong leaders expend a lot of brain energy on making sure that they validate the information they are receiving regardless of the source of that information. They demand the same effort from their leadership teams. They expect all concerned to challenge the status quo, revisit decisions in light of new information, and be mentally active rather than mentally lazy. How about you and your team? How are you spending your brain energy budget?