Do strong leaders make good decisions?

We all admire a strong leader. They help people feel they can move mountains when faced with the impossible. As with all personality types though, great strengths are always combined with a downside. So are those with the big personalities best placed as the figurehead of your organisation or someone to avoid placing at the decision making board table?

Research from Haas Business School in California is the latest contribution to the debate around whether leaders function better individually or as a team.  Through several different studies of group dynamics involving people of high power status (i.e. senior managers) or a mix of high power and low power (managers of different grades), the team found certain groups performed better and made better decisions on their own than whether others were involved.

Groups of high powered people were found less likely to complete tasks, share information and made poorer decisions. Their focus became hijacked by a need to compete for status.  However, when left to complete tasks on their own, high powered individuals were more likely to perform well.

These findings suggest that the strengths that enable senior managers to rise to positions of power can have a negative effect on how they contribute to teams.

So are senior management teams destined to make poor decisions?! If the team is aware of the possible negative dynamics that competitiveness and independence can have on decision making, then this can help senior teams to collaborate and compromise rather than compete. For example, structuring discussions to ensure different views are heard, emphasising a collaborative culture in the board room rather than a competitive one.

If you are wondering whether this is a problem in your board room, you might want to think about how conflict and differences of opinion are resolved. Are people in the room if different conflict modes – competing, collaborating, compromising, accommodating or avoiding conflict? All of these will happen at certain times, but are one or two people dominating how conflict is resolved?