Biases are natural to human beings and it is extremely difficult to be totally free of them. Biases are based on our background, culture, the places where we grew up and the people with whom we happened to be associated. The biases have a direct reflection in our interactions as leaders with our subordinates and followers.
Whenever conflicts of opinion occur within a group or organization, the leaders have the final say in such matters. The leaders, thus, have the control over other people’s lives, which implies tremendous responsibility.
Unfortunately, not all leaders are well informed to make decisions which affect other people’s lives. Several of them rely on stereotypical or inaccurate impressions. Moreover, human beings in power do not like their stereotypes or judgments to be contradicted. Biases make such leaders more prone to making poor decisions.
Stereotype and biases often throw job interviews off course. They can create situations which can unfairly or unintentionally prevent qualified people from getting the job. This way the biased leaders become responsible for depriving their organizations of valuable human resources.
Inherent or Unconscious Biases:
Biases have evolved as a part of human nature for quick response in questionable situations. They enable us to decide quickly and instinctively about something being like us or unlike us. We tend to think those things that are like us as friendly and the opposite as unfriendly or dangerous. There are hundreds of hard-wired biases within our brains, which help the brain to quickly identify threats and opportunities without involving the time-consuming thinking process. Researchers have estimated that the brain can process 11 billion bits of information at a given point of time, whereas the conscious mind can process only 40 bits of information.
Leadership Biases Hindering Business Success
Leadership biases often become obstacles to doing successful business. There is always some conflict of interest between the goals of the companies and their customers. The companies run their business to earn profit, whereas the customers want to buy the products and the services at the lowest possible prices. The customer-centric organizations can increase the volume of business and can still make profit by keeping the customers’ expectations in view.
It is rare that senior leaders show any conscious bias these days. But unconscious biases still persist, of which the leaders may be quite unaware.
Since we are all naturally biased to some extent or the other, we have to accept the fact and try to mitigate the effects of biases or entirely remove them in certain situations that can have grave business or social consequences.
Counteractions against Biases:
- Harvard University has developed certain Implicit-Association-Tests (IAT) for identifying deep-seated biases in respect of common biases like race, gender and age. Taking these tests will help the leaders to identify and eliminate their hidden biases.
- Educating the fellow leaders can also minimize the stereotyping tendencies and can help them in focusing the subordinates’ strengths.
- Developing a diversity culture within the company through effective communication can counter the negative effects of stereotyping.
- Creating a collaborative environment within the company so as to absorb new ideas and openness to diversification.
- Finally, the leaders need to behave in such a way as to counter the stereotype mindsets.
Great leaders take all the counteractive measures against the implicit biases and stereotypes within their group or organization. They do not allow the biases to come in the way of doing successful business and achieving organizational growth.