keeping an eye on ‘the decider’

It takes a certain heresy to suggest that smart leaders make bad decisions, and that weak ones get lucky for that matter.

But, regardless of the scale of a decision, we can all reflect on moments when we ourselves have failed to live up to our own intelligence, or in the cases when we have outdone it.

In this HBR article “When good leaders make bad decisions”, Andrew Campbell, Jo Whitehead, and Sydney Finkelstein, explain their study into 83 large scale (corporate) blunders. They identify two factors that could explain why we, our colleagues, and our leaders trip up. Even in those cases when ‘the decider‘ feels most certain. 

In short, they prescribe some adult supervision, and some emotional distance…

…All these executives were highly qualified for their jobs, and yet they made decisions that soon seemed clearly wrong. Why? And more important, how can we avoid making similar mistakes? This is the topic we’ve been exploring for the past four years, and the journey has taken us deep into a field called decision neuroscience. …

How the Brain Trips Up

We depend primarily on two hardwired processes for decision making. Our brains assess what’s going on using pattern recognition, and we react to that information—or ignore it—because of emotional tags that are stored in our memories. Both of these processes are normally reliable; they are part of our evolutionary advantage. But in certain circumstances, both can let us down.

This assumes that good leaders actually do perform decision making, when it is required of them. What gets overlooked with this framework is the frequency with which, decisions get deferred, or never made at all. 

for more:  Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions – HBR.org .

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