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John Seckel, Philadelphia, on Biases to Overcome as a Leader

As human beings, we all have inherent biases. Not all of these biases are racially or gender-based, either. People who are graduates of Ivy League schools may have an inherent bias against graduates of state schools or individuals with a less elite scholastic pedigree. While biases are not inherently destructive in and of themselves, they […]

As human beings, we all have inherent biases. Not all of these biases are racially or gender-based, either. People who are graduates of Ivy League schools may have an inherent bias against graduates of state schools or individuals with a less elite scholastic pedigree. While biases are not inherently destructive in and of themselves, they can severely impact someone’s ability to be an effective leader. Here are three biases that leaders need to overcome in order to lead effectively.

Confirmation Bias

Overall, leaders have to have a strong belief in their own wisdom, instinct or knowledge. Conversely, most leaders understand at least on some level the need to seek input from others. Unfortunately, too many leaders simply take the input as confirmation of what they already believed to be the right decision. They aren’t truly starting out with an open mind, they are simply looking for permission to make the decision they already thought they should make in advance.

The Halo Effect

There is a reason that the old saying about never getting a second chance to make a first impression is still floating around. First impressions matter, to be sure, but they can also be detrimental for leaders. Even the worst employees can have a moment of glory and the best employees can make mistakes. If your first encounter with a bad employee is on a day when they do something really well, that will have a significant impact on your long-term impressions of them. On the other hand, if your first encounter with a good employee happens to be when they are going through a rough patch or make a mistake, you may hold an unfavorable impression of them for a very long time. Before making judgments about “good” employees or “bad” ones, it is important to spend some time watching their performance over the long term.

Availability Bias

Similar to the halo effect, the more recently something has happened or the “larger” an event is, the more vividly we will remember it. The problem this creates for leaders is that when people are doing their job well and keeping things running smoothly, they are often barely noticed. When something goes wrong, however, it puts a giant spotlight on them, which makes the single error seem much larger and of greater importance than the months or years they spent quietly doing their job well.

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