Individuals can be penalized when they are caught in the middle of a leadership bias. A truant officer ran a red light and slammed into the driver side of my Toyota automobile shortly after I graduated from college. He got out of the car and yelled at me. “Didn’t you see my flashing headlights and hear me honking my horn? I was astonished and replied, “No I did not. Where are your flashing headlights now?” I asked. “Well I turned them off just before impact” was his response. He told the witnesses in his car, who were two students on their way to school, to take the bus to school. A police officer arrived on the scene to investigate the accident. The truant officer relayed his side of the story and instantly bonded with the police. The police officer told a story about cars in traffic refusing to listen to his siren when he was involved in a recent emergency. He executed his leadership bias by giving me two moving violations; one ticket for damage to city property and the other for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle. The officer’s identification or leadership bias could have cost me money, but both tickets were thrown out in court. Incidentally, in court he told a story of weaving cautiously through traffic, stopping, looking both ways and slowly driving into traffic before I ignored his siren and flashing lights and hit him. Ironically, we were the only cars on the road.
There can be consequences and complications if the leadership bias is unchallenged. My truant officer’s boss screamed at him when he returned to the police station, but if it wasn’t for his boss and the judge, I would have paid a hefty price.
Our conversations about leadership are usually harmless, but the truth does support that all leaders are not focused on the noble traits of leadership. There are some who have brought down entire companies, as we know from the financial crisis in the last decade. Large corporations have been brought into our living rooms and offices because they have misled their shareholders and stakeholders. People who tried to alert the authorities were, intimidated, ridiculed, fired and their careers destroyed.
Leadership must be kept in check with appropriate oversight to ensure that it does not abuse its power. This is especially critical when evidence exists about intimidation and the reduction in results and effectiveness. There must be a level of transparency, trust and competence to ensure that laws are being followed and leaders are effectively doing their jobs. Turning a blind eye or a deaf ear to harassment, criminal behavior or incompetence could harm a large number of investors and innocent bystanders. An unbridled leadership bias could be detrimental to the careers and incomes of many people. It should not be allowed to exist without the necessary periodic reviews and updates.
We should acknowledge that a leadership bias could also manifest itself as someone totally against the actions of leaders. They believe all leaders are dishonest and should not be trusted.
The first step in addressing a leadership bias is awareness and assessment. One of the first rules of human behavior is that people like people like themselves. We may be prone to favoritism and preference. If we periodically approach leaders with objectivity and openness we can catch problems before they develop into catastrophes.
Secondly, we should look at the data as objectively as our experience will allow. As leaders, we have a leadership lens which could contribute to our leadership bias. If we keep this in mind, we can minimize following blindly when we discuss the actions of leaders.
Thirdly, it is good to have a third-party involved where there are serious claims against those in power. The Human Resource Department is usually assigned the responsibility to make sure an organization is objective when a leader is under scrutiny. Another tactic is to maintain open dialogue with employees to gain their perspectives of leadership and to act on suggestions to show sincerity.
Because I have been exposed to excellent leaders who had integrity and professionalism, I am biased to the noble elements of leading. However, not all leaders are leading equally. Additionally, sometimes leaders make mistakes. We have to select and develop the best leaders so that our families, associations, communities, places of worship and organization flourish and use their people and resource to improve society and the world. To that end we can in good conscience, give leaders the benefit of the doubt and our positive bias can be justified.
I am aware of my leadership bias. This awareness should allow me to be more objective and open to the positive and negative aspects of leadership. Do you have a leadership bias? Check yourself and act accordingly.
Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser