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How Inherent Biases Cloud Decisions


Decision-making is one of the most important skills that a leader can develop. The more responsibility that is on your shoulders usually directly correlates with the amount of decision-making that you have to do. So, if we’re making decisions every day and getting lots of practice at it, why do experienced leaders still make bad decisions. Here are some reasons why.


Environmental Factors

Leaders and non-leaders alike have personalities that are shaped in part by the environment they work and live in. And ‘environment’ means a number of things – your upbringing, your value-set, geographical location, company culture, political biases, how your close friends behave to name just a few. There are so many environmental factors that shape someone’s personality which can often lead to biases (both conscious and subconscious) that can affect - and sometimes hamper – decision making.


What Happened Yesterday Will Happen Tomorrow

We like to think that the more experienced we get, the wiser our decisions will be. We draw on our experiences to learn from the past to try and predict the future. While this seems like a great common-sense approach to decision making, we also need to recognize that not every situation is going to be the same and that a good decision in the past may not be a good decision now. A lot of times we get caught up to quickly decide something because we think we’ve seen it before and know that what happened in the past will surely happen again in the future.


Leadership Style

Some leaders seek counsel from team members, subordinates, superiors and others alike. Others can be more inwardly focused and feel that with enough critical thought on their own that they will make the right decision. Leadership style can lead to biased decision-making in those cases where outside influences are ignored and decisions are made solely on the thought processes of the individual leader. Counter to that – biases can also be introduced to a leader’s decision-making ability by soliciting input from others who may also have an inherent bias towards one decision or the other (for any number of reasons).

Decision-making is a critical skill that leaders need to constantly practice. It is like a muscle that atrophies when not exercised. As leaders we need to accept that not all of our decisions are going to be the right ones and that our biases will always play some role in how we make our decisions.

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