Oct 22, 2015 | 3
Minute Read

Leadership Bias in the West


Biases Viewing Extroversion as Necessary for Leadership are Living on Borrowed Time

Culture in the West, since the middle of the last century at least, has taken a turn away from character as the basis of leadership in favor of personality.

Not just any personality, but extroverted personality (the D and I dimensions of DISC) has been almost universally promoted as the prerequisite for leadership.

Culture permeates our lives and constantly influences us, telling us how to think, feel and behave. However, this Western cultural bias that devalues introversion and disconnects it from leadership is unfortunately alive and well.

One would think corporate executives or professionals in the people business would be less affected by this bias. Surely, they wouldn’t fall prey to societal groupthink. Would they?

Though we would all like to think we are objective, volumes of psychological research and a great 2014 book from Howard J. Ross tell us otherwise.

Ross, in Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Livesputs it this way:

Human beings are consistently, routinely and profoundly biased. We not only are profoundly biased, but we also almost never know we are being biased.

Types of Biases

None of us are bias-free. Two biases are particularly stubborn and resistant to exposure or change.

We all have an egocentric bias, thinking at some level that the way we are is the right way for others to be.

This personal bias, when found in extroverts, combines with the shared bias of Western culture that advocates extroversion as the “right stuff” for leadership. This egocentric bias often combines with another, the self-serving bias.

Self-serving bias blinds us to the possibility of truth that may lessen our perceived superiority or lessen our supposed advantage over those who differ. These two biases are strong, making it hard to see our motives or us clearly.

My friend and colleague, Whit Mitchell often cites the following leading cause of death among executives: a lack of self-awareness.

How Biases Affect Us

Accurate knowledge of self is hard to obtain. Some of the most difficult things for us to observe about ourselves are these latent biases that live in our blind spots. We assume other leaders should lead like us and sometimes hire and coach accordingly. It seems to serves us well to maintain this myth, so we don’t see it.

Extroverted leaders benefit from the stereotype that leadership is extroverted territory. Our bias blinds us to the possibility of being wrong.

Great societal movements, however, have always been marked by those on the advantaged side of the bias stepping out of their cultural comfort zone and courageously suggesting that, maybe, the emperor has no clothes.

I think the leading organizations in the future will be similar. As the extroverted Benjamin Franklin put it, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

The bias in our day is one that suggests the disconnection between introversion and leadership. Organizations that ultimately win will be those who do the hard work of seeing themselves and setting aside their bias in favor of a balanced view of leadership.

What Can We Do About It?

With the explosion of scientific understanding and the doubling of knowledge every 12 months, we now understand more than ever the fallacies that underlie many of our previously held misconceptions and biases.

The bias that sees extroversion (D & I) as necessary for leadership is living on borrowed time.

Organizations that identify this bias and do the hard work of seeking to minimize or eliminate it from their organizational development will be the leaders in the business world of the future.

Sadly, those that don’t will suffer the death that comes from a lack of self-awareness.
About the Author [/et_pb_text][et_pb_team_member admin_label="Author Guest Blogger" saved_tabs="all" name="GUEST BLOGGER - Andy Johnson" animation="off" background_layout="light" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid" twitter_url="https://twitter.com/andyjohnsonPA"]

Andy Johnson is an executive coach and team health specialist with Price Associates. He is the author of Introvert Revolution: Leading Authentically in a World That Says You Can’t. He is also a faculty member of The Complete Leader. Visit price-associates.com or introvertrevolution.com. His DISC score is 12-40-94-93.

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Andy Johnson