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The Effects of Assumptions and Biases on Leadership Problem Solving and How to Mitigate Them

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If you have ever been selected for jury duty, you may recall attorneys barraging you with questions during the voir dire process. This is when the case attorneys ask potential jurors specific questions to determine if they are capable of rendering an impartial verdict. For example, if the case involves an alleged drunk driver, attorneys might ask potential jurors whether they were ever arrested for drunk driving or whether they have a loved one who was injured by a drunk driver. These questions are designed to uncover any biases among jurors.

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A heuristic is a word from the Greek meaning “to discover.” It is an approach to problem solving that takes one’s personal experience into account. Heuristics provide strategies to scrutinise a limited number of signals and/or alternative choices in decision-making. Heuristics diminish the work of retrieving and storing information in memory; streamlining the decision making process by reducing the amount of integrated information necessary in making the choice or passing judgment. However, while heuristics can speed up our problem and decision-making process, they can introduce errors and biased judgments. This paper looks at commonly used heuristics and their human psychology origins. Understanding how heuristics work can give us better insight into our personal biases and influences, and (perhaps) lead to better problem solving and decision making.“Dual process” theories of cognition (DPT) have been popularised by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winning behavioural economist, who expounds the theory of “System 1” and “System 2”

System 1 is fast, automatic, effortless, associative and often emotionally charged, and thus difficult to control or modify; and “System 2,” which is slower, serial, effortful, and deliberately controlled, and thus relatively flexible and potentially rule-governed. System 1 is essentially an autopilot system in which we do things easier and through repetition. It filters out things in the environment that are irrelevant at that moment; it has high efficiency. It is based on the idea that neurons that fire together, wire together. It primes an idea so that one idea is more easily activated (wakening of associations). System 1 has a bias towards making thinking cheap and enables one to deal with information overload. System 2 corrects and adjusts the perceptual blindness associated with system 1. It allows flexibility, giving nuance and precision more importance. Basically, system 1 is more associative and intuitive while system 2 is analytical and deliberative. This is the tendency to judge the frequency or likelihood of an event by the ease with which relevant instances come to mind. It operates on the assumption that if something can be recalled, it must be important or more important than alternative solutions that are not as readily recalled. A decision maker relies upon knowledge that is readily available rather than examine other alternatives or procedures; as a result, individuals tend to weigh their judgments toward more recent information, making new opinions biased toward that latest news.

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With the aim of enlightening the theme in a comprehensive manner, the authors of the given article review it from the different perspectives. It seems essential to point out that they distinguish between ethical leadership and empowering leadership, clearly stating that they are independent factors that affect leader success. To specify the problem, they refer to the studies by Brown and Trevino, 2006, Trevino and Brown, 2004, and De Cremer et al., 2011 that emphasize the role of the identified leadership in terms of the corporative behaviors along with the need for the immediate action. Furthermore, the researches by Chen et al., 2011, De Hartog and De Hoogh, 2009, Huang et al., 2010, etc. are noted to specify the link between LMX and the mentioned leadership initiatives. Reviewing the ideas by Brown and Trevino, 2006, Graen and Scandura, 1987, and Liden et al., 1997, the authors claim that truth, openness, appeal to emotions and morale as well as respect are the focal elements of high-quality LMX. The literature overview also backs up the hypotheses stated by the article authors. Thus, Kirkpatrick and Locke, 1991, Kouzes and Posner, 1992, and Posner and Schmidt, 1992 are cited to present the role of leader integrity and honesty in the interaction with employees. The assumptions regarding the affirmative commitment are based on the research by Brown et al. 2005 who believe that the emotional constituent of leadership is a rather important issue as subordinates tend to follow those leaders who understand them, manifesting the adequate extent of sensitivity

In addition, a range of other credible articles is also noted in the study under discussion that indicates the scholar nature of the latter. The study assumptions may be referred to the hypotheses that were signalized earlier in this paper. As for the limitations, the authors relate them to the survey methods, pinpointing that students composed the sample, yet some of them were full-time workers. The above fact may create some bias in the validity of the results. The second limitation concerns the fact that the mentioned bias could affect the results of the study. The utilization of cross-sectional data is the third limitation, implying limited casualty consideration.

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Summing up, because we now understand more about how the brain works, we can anticipate the circumstances in which errors of judgment may occur and guard against them

So rather than rely on the wisdom of experienced chairmen, the humility of CEOs, or the standard organizational checks and balances, we urge all involved in important decisions to explicitly consider whether red flags exist and, if they do, to lobby for appropriate safeguards. Decisions that involve no red flags need many fewer checks and balances and thus less bureaucracy. Some of those resources could then be devoted to protecting the decisions most at risk with more intrusive and robust protections.

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Avey, James B., et al. “Exploring the Process of Ethical Leadership: The Mediating Role of Employee Voice and Psychological Ownership.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 107, no. 1, 2012, pp. 21–34.

Hassan, Shahidul, et al. “Ethical and Empowering Leadership and Leader Effectiveness.” Journal of Managerial Psychology, vol. 28, no. 2, 2013, pp. 133–146.

Johansson, Catrin, et al. “Conceptualizing Communicative Leadership.” Corporate Communications: An International Journal, vol. 19, no. 2, 2014, pp. 147–165.

Martin, S. L., et al. “Directive versus Empowering Leadership: A Field Experiment Comparing Impacts on Task Proficiency and Proactivity.” Academy of Management Journal, vol. 56, no. 5, 2012, pp. 1372–1395.

Mayer, D. M., et al. “Who Displays Ethical Leadership, and Why Does It Matter? An Examination of Antecedents and Consequences of Ethical Leadership.” Academy of Management Journal, vol. 55, no. 1, 2012, pp. 151–171.

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