Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep It from Happening to You

Sandi Mann (University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 19 July 2011




Mann, S. (2011), "Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep It from Happening to You", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 530-530.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Decision making lies at the heart of both professional and personal life and when wrong decisions are made, the consequences can be dire. Leaders have to make decisions that can affect the entire company and possibly have even wider implications and yet, good leaders, even great leaders, can and do (say the authors) make bad decisions. Examples given to illustrate this are President Kennedy's blunder over the Bay of Pigs, President Hoover's failure to inflate the economy after the crash of 1929 and Margaret Thatcher's championing of a ‘poll tax’ that led to her being ousted from her own party. Business leaders too, are prone to misjudgement; the CEO of Daimler‐benz, CEO of Samsung and the founder of Wang electronics are cited as examples.

Why, the authors ponder, do good leaders make bad decisions – and how can we reduce the risk of this happening to us? The authors bring their wealth of experience into the field by delving into a wide range of organisations across the world and discovered that two main factors form the basis of flawed decision‐making; the error of judgement itself followed by processes that fail to correct that initial error.

In order to address these two processes, the authors lead us on a journey to discover firstly, how our brains make decisions; issues like pattern recognition and emotional tagging are outlined in some detail, with appropriate discussion of brain functioning. This is followed by an outline of the four conditions under which flawed thinking is most likely to happen – what the authors call ‘red flag conditions’ because they provide a warning that when these conditions exist, it is easy to get it wrong. These are misleading experiences, inappropriate judgements, conflicting self‐interest and conflicting attachments. Each of these red flags can unbalance the mental processes of a decision‐maker and lead to a flawed decision. When one or more red flags exist, managers need to make changes to the decision process to reduce the risk of a flawed decision. In other words, the authors are not advocating ways to correct our mental processes (which they believe is hard to do) but they recommend safeguards to dilute the influence of distorted thinking; such safeguards are experience and data, group debate and challenge, governance and monitoring.

Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep It from Happening to You is an engaging book, liberally peppered with real‐life case stories. It is extremely readable and actually hard to stop reading if, like me, you are a student of human behaviour. Will it help you reduce your own flawed decision‐making? At the very least, being aware of our own human flaws is a promising first step.

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