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Researchers say these 4 personality traits have an outsized negative effect on decision-making

Posted by Kanika Sinha

October 25, 2021    |     4-minute read (690 words)

The effects of a leader’s personality on organizational culture have been well established. While positive leadership attributes can inspire team members to accomplish amazing things, researchers at Harvard Business Review have found certain personality flaws that can have a disproportionately negative impact on decision-making. These personality disorders are often more than just annoyances and can contribute to failures in the design and execution of important strategic decisions. 

Here are four such personality traits along with their impact on strategy and decision-making. Also given here are suggestions that leaders can take to mitigate damage.

The rigidly controlling leader – Some leaders create a highly controlled environment wherein everything and everyone must work in a predefined manner. Being extremely rigid, such leaders struggle to accommodate fresh and nonconventional ideas, which kills innovation and employee enthusiasm. This, in turn, leads to low-risk, barely incremental work, because the employees want to avoid their leader’s exacting critique, making change much slower and often impossible.

Mitigating actions: In addition to examining their aversion to curiosity and change, controlling leaders should try promoting transparency in their organization by sharing more information and insights about the business and the progress of activities. They should take calculated risks by identifying situations that are not too sensitive to experiment, with new ways of sharing responsibility. 

The overconfident, chronically certain leader – Overconfident leaders tend to overpromise and make unrealistic strategies, which can create unnecessary distress and anxiety for the employees charged with their execution. They also suffer from myopia and over-determinism, oblivious to the impact of longer-term trends, complex dynamics and disruption from new entrants to their industry. And by the time they understand the situation, it’s usually too late to act.

Mitigating actions: One possible method to overcome this personality flaw is to orchestrate debate and dissent among employees, and avoid working with “yes” people. Another method is to work toward building diverse teams comprising people with different backgrounds, perspectives, expertise and working styles.

Chronically certain leaders should also consider immersing themselves in external developments such as studying consumer behavior and technology innovation. Additionally, they should explicitly ask team members for their views and opinions before going in for meetings, making it clear to them that disagreement is acceptable. 

The insecure leader – Typical hallmarks of an insecure leader are self-doubt and anxiety. They are constantly worried about what others think of them and anxiously expect to fall short. Even though they try to mask these deeper feelings by putting on a game face or by being overly accommodating and nice to others, they can still have a harmful effect on the decision-making process. 

Such leaders are often taken advantage of by other aggressive leaders who cajole them into saying “yes” to every idea they’re offered. And because they are afraid to fail, most of their decisions are based on endless mitigation efforts for risks only they can see, despite any past learnings and experiences.

Mitigating actions: Insecure leaders should try to get to the heart of their fears with the help of an executive coach or therapist, or look at past successes so as to get a handle on insecurities. Instead of agonizing over impending doom, they should make use of reliable data to build realistic scenarios about the numerous potential outcomes of various strategies and decisions. Insecure leaders should also work toward reframing their conversations into opportunities. 

The impulsive leader – Impulsive leaders crave the adrenaline rush of pioneering what’s not been done yet. To achieve that, they exhaust their organizations, overcommit resources and overpromise to customers and shareholders. 

They are often found making hyperbolic declarations that throw their staff members into frenzies of short-lived excitement. This wanes once the employees catch on to their pattern of abandoning last week’s big idea to pursue the latest fad. 

Mitigating actions: Impulsive leaders should consider including time and data into their strategic decisions to test ideas before acting on them. They should also work toward building extra discipline into their strategy process and allow other disciplined leaders to run it. Such leaders must be extra vigilant about the inherent risks and resource requirements associated with their ideas. 

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