Based on universal scientific reasoning, the work organization model called “Taylorism” has long prevailed within companies. But reluctant to change and personal development, he has proven unsuited to the modern world. Since then, so-called “learning” models have tried to succeed him without more success. At the heart of the system is the notion of leadership “namely one or more people who contribute so that the whole company works in harmony in order to achieve a common objective”, summarizes Philippe Damier, professor of neurology at the University Hospital of Nantes who (with James Teboul, professor at Insead and the College of Engineers), published The mirage of leadership put to the test by neuroscience (Odile Jacob, 355 pages, €23.90). With him, we come back to “seven capital biases”, inscribed in our brain that condition us and that every boss should know to put people back at the heart of the world of work. We drew seven management tips.
Of your emotions, you will be suspicious (bias of intentional reasoning)
No offense to Descartes, we are not rational but driven by our affects. This is one of the current results in neurosciences such as the work of Antonio Damasio which shows the role of the prefrontal cortex as a regulator-calculator of emotions. The latter, so often repressed, are today put forward for a good leader who must rely on his emotional intelligence in order to make his decisions and in his relationship with his professional entourage. While being careful not to let these same emotions distort his reasoning: what is loved determines what is valuable. An example: in March 2020, Donald Trump was enthusiastic about hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of Covid-19 based not on evidence but on a “feeling in the guts”. A reflex to banish.
Overcoming fears and risk aversion (insecurity bias)
Deep in the brain, the amygdala located in the temporal lobes play a central role in managing fear and anxiety. They serve as sentinels of what we perceive and orchestrate our emotional experiences since man is homo sapiens. To confront this bias of fear and insecurity, a good leader must master his communication. For example, when faced with his employees when he finds himself obliged to announce poor results: it is up to him to consolidate the information and back it up so that they are not misinterpreted (or over-interpreted), which would lead to unnecessary fears ( risk of job cuts, etc.).
Not succumbing to immediate desire and projecting oneself (immediate gratification bias)
Our brain has a powerful circuit of pleasure and immediate gratification. It enhances the reward system housed in the heart of the ventral striatum which is stimulated by a neuromediator, dopamine. Hence a bias of immediacy which can be akin to the sin of gluttony. Another pitfall, wanting everything right away makes it easy to abandon long-term goals (especially when it comes to making a decision). This conscious work of activating the prefrontal cortex to curb one’s immediate impulses is beneficial in particular for planning and investing in the future.
Do not overestimate your know-how (self-centeredness bias)
Beware of the intoxication of power that can see a leader err on the side of confidence and make mistakes. Dopamine and testosterone contribute to this egocentrism bias. Historical examples? Jacques Chirac in 1995 when he decided to dissolve the Assembly or closer to us, Vladimir Putin who overestimated his forces and invaded Ukraine. On the scale of a company and to counter this excess, the leader must strive to remain modest and not lock himself in so as not to give too much credit to his own beliefs. For example, during meetings, giving everyone the floor and in an equitable manner. Or by taking as many outside opinions as possible before deciding.
Not crushing others (dominance and control bias)
With us, the hierarchical bias has existed for thousands of years: we have an implicit hierarchical feeling, inherent in the sociability of species. With stratified and rigid modes of subordination that have resulted in a highly unequal distribution of power. In our brain, complex neuronal maps represent our status and the hierarchical order of the people around us, according to multiple parameters (age, income, etc.) and sometimes surprising like the physical size which continues to unconsciously influence our perception of domination: in the United States, only 15% of men are over 1.83 meters tall, but this percentage rises to… 60% for the CEOs of the 500 largest companies.
Within his company, a good leader must seek to avoid this bias. By placing oneself, for example, in the middle of meetings (without wanting to “chair” them); by putting on clothes similar to those of others. Or finally, why not, by delegating the function of leader according to the circumstances or the needs?
Inertia and the status quo, you will banish (bias of inertia and least effort)
In its operation, the brain connects a number of automatic tasks (walking, speaking, driving, etc.) which require little energy, unlike actions of creativity or reflection. Our brain is a cognitive thrifty that can lead to inertia bias. In the business world, Kodak, which failed to take the digital turn and went bankrupt, is often cited as an example. You have to be critical and set up moments of questioning and questioning. Similarly, a leader who has to hire someone will avoid letting himself go to this facility of the least effort (based on diplomas, pace, way of expressing himself) to go further than this first impression by broadening his information.
Long live diversity (similarity bias of social conformism)
By dint of living in a group and collaborating, we have learned to trust our loved ones. We therefore seek to associate ourselves with those who are like us. However, this bias of association by similarity keeps us from venturing beyond a restricted circle. We suffer from a need to belong to a group and work hard to achieve it. Sometimes even modifying our beliefs. To prevent groupthink from prevailing, it is necessary to ensure a certain diversity within it and to be wary of easy unanimity.