Friday, October 14, 2011

The Decision-Making Flaw of Powerful People

The decisions made by powerful people in business and other fields have far-reaching effects on their organizations and employees.

But this paper finds a link between having a sense of power and having a propensity to give short shrift to a crucial part of the decision-making process: listening to advice.

Power increases confidence, the paper’s authors say, which can lead to an excessive belief in one’s own judgment and ultimately to flawed decisions.

Previous research has shown that the quality of decision making declines when people stick too much with their own beliefs and discount too readily the advice of others; outside information helps “average out” the distortions that can result when people give a great deal of weight to their own opinions and first impressions.

This paper is among the first to examine whether power — defined as an individual’s “capacity to influence others, stemming in part from his or her control over resources, rewards, or punishments” — reduces or increases a person’s willingness to heed advice.

Using four experiments, including one in a real-world business setting, the researchers employed a form of 360-degree assessment to explore the relationship between power and openness to others’ input.

In all four studies, they found that powerful people were more likely than those with less power to disregard and mistrust outside perceptions and advice — and that men were more likely than women to disregard guidance from others.

The researchers further discovered that confidence was perceived by many as an important attribute of leadership.

They concluded therefore that many powerful people, over time, come to see taking advice as a sign of weakness, assuming that they should project total confidence in their views alone.

This, argue the researchers, can be a dangerous assumption.

Read more on this article: The Decision-Making Flaw in Powerful People

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