9 leadership cognitive biases that prevent success

Human mind has certain brain structure for pattern recognition (neocortex). Pattern recognition forms cognitive biases that helps fast decision making in different contexts. It seems that cognitive biases are important because they reduce the brain energy consumption. When mind forms a pattern, it is easy to use it in similar cases intuitively and save thinking energy to more challenging situations. This pattern recognition is hidden and very effective. If we (humans) are in a hurry, we intuitively utilize these hidden patterns in decision-making. However, if the problems are complex the intuition may lead to wrong decision (1)(2)(3).

Here are nine leadership related cognitive biases that prevent organization performance

  1. Observation selection bias
    Leader’s focus is on operative scorecards rather than listening to opinions on how to achieve the targets.
  2. False causality bias
    Leader thinks that maximum result (profit) comes by maximizing working-time. In reality, the maximum result is more likely to come from improved work motivation.
  3. Confirmation bias
    Executives give reward to supervisors from short-term results, however the long-term profit is sacrificed.
  4. Current moment bias
    Leader thinks that his own work tasks are currently more important than spending time with the team.
  5. Self-enhancement bias
    Leader assumes to be better leader than average, thus not seeing the development needs.
  6. Plunging-in bias
    Leader makes conclusions too fast and gives solutions to wrong problems.
  7. Fundamental attribution bias
    Leader thinks that the reason for poor performance is in team members or unrealistic targets, not leader’s own management.
  8. Ambiguity bias
    Leader does not want to change management style because the result is uncertain.
  9. Status-Quo bias
    Leader wants to stick to the past, because he/she sees change as a threat.

These cognitive leadership biases are human, thus leader is not to blame. However, wise leader can learn to avoid these harmful biases in workplace decision-making. In addition, there are new emerging science for solving this wicked performance problem. Shortly, new solutions include three methods:

  1. Problem: Supervisors have too much trivial operative workload. Solution: Arrange more time for collaborative leadership practices utilizing Robotics Process Automation.
  2. Problem: Operative scorecards takes leaders’ focus from people management. Solution: Measure QWL-index and make it important as a human performance scorecard. Start measuring QWL-index continuously (Robotic-QWL measurement), and this way gamify leadership development.
  3. Problem: Traditional leadership trainings do not eliminate harmful biases. Solution: Utilize Artificial Intelligence powered simulation for experience-based learning for eliminating harmful biases. (4)(5)

Improving organization leadership quality is not easy, thus it forms competitive advantage for those who master it. Economic benefits are substantial. We are looking for organizations to participate in our research and to test these emerging new solutions.

Marko Kesti




  • Kurzweil, R. (2013). How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed. New York, NY, USA: Penguin Books.
  • Kahneman, D.; Tversky, A. (1972). “Subjective probability: A judgment of representativeness”(PDF). Cognitive Psychology. 3 (3): 430–454.
  • Kahneman, D (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. Penguin Books, UK.
  • Kesti M. (2019) Architecture of Management Game for Reinforced Deep Learning. In: Arai K., Kapoor S., Bhatia R. (eds) Intelligent Systems and Applications. IntelliSys 2018. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, vol 868. Springer, Cham.
  • Kesti M., Leinonen J. and Kesti T. (2017). “The Productive Leadership Game: From Theory to Game-Based Learning.” Public Sector Entrepreneurship and the Integration of Innovative Business Models. IGI Global, 2017. 238-260.

About markokesti

Marko Kesti Dr. (admin), M.Sc. (tech.) Adjunct Professor, HRM-Performance University of Lapland CEO, PlayGain Inc. EVP, Mcompetence Inc. Non-fiction writer Married with 2 kids

Posted on February 7, 2019, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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