Why Leaders Must Combat Their Unconscious Biases

All leaders have biases – it’s impossible not to! Our brains are wired to make quick judgments and assessments of people and situations. It is built into us as human beings and helps us quickly scan through the surplus of information in front of us each and every day.

While optimal for survival, our biases don’t serve us so well in our daily interactions, and definitely don’t work in the favor of corporate leaders who want to lead with fairness and equity, and ultimately make good leadership decisions. Today, we will discuss what unconscious leadership bias is, why it’s important to combat it, and how you can do so.

Defining Unconscious Bias

Before we discuss the leadership impacts of unconscious bias, let’s first discuss what unconscious bias entails as a whole. Simply put, unconscious bias refers to who and what we unconsciously place our focus and attention on, and sometimes even favor. Our unconscious biases are more than just feelings; they are lenses that shape our perceptions, thoughts, and even behaviors.

Unconscious bias is everywhere, and can be seen in who we engage with, the choices we make, our interactions with people who are different from us, and how we allocate our time, energy and resources. This rings true on both the personal and professional level.

What Unconscious Leadership Bias Looks Like

When unconscious biases infiltrate the workplace via the company executive team and organizational decision-makers, this is known as leadership bias.

There are many types of leadership bias that can affect workplace dynamics and decision-making. Two of the most common forms that impact corporate leaders are confirmation bias and self-serving bias.

Confirmation bias is the idea that leaders tend to place more value on information they already agree with. This is closely connected to self-serving bias, which is all about prioritizing decisions that benefit the leader’s objectives (and even agenda).

Some leaders have biases towards groupthink or extreme team cohesion. This can be detrimental to team members who have contrasting views to the majority, especially if the leader has embedded fears (whether consciously or unconsciously) about opposing the majority.

Additionally, leaders are prone to have biases that reflect their unconsciously ingrained views of certain populations. On a social level, leadership bias can impact how a leader engages with people of different

● ages
● genders
● sexualities
● races
● ethnicities
● skin colors
● abilities
● social classes

Inevitably, a leader’s biases can impede movements towards equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion – another reason why organizations must work to combat the impact of leadership bias.

What Unconscious Leadership Bias Looks Like

Leadership bias can have negative consequences for both individuals and organizations.

Some of the common results include:

● poor executive decision-making
● favoring certain team members over others
● misjudgment of employee talents and abilities
● subjective, non-merit-based hiring and promotion decisions
● lack of diversity in the workplace
● increased conformity

All in all, unaddressed leadership biases limit not only organizational leadership, but the entire culture (and potential) of the organization from the top-down.

If a leader doesn’t keep their own perspectives and experiences in check, they may alienate individuals who may have valuable insights to offer, which in turn limits growth and innovation within the organization.

Moreover, a leader who strives for equity and inclusion will not be able to scratch the surface of these aims unless their biases towards different social groups and characteristics are in check.

How to Combat Unconscious Leadership Bias

The first step to combatting leadership bias is awareness. By taking a hard look at how you make decisions within your organization, you are on your way to creating lasting change. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge, after all.

From there, consider what measures you can put in place to increase objectivity in your decision-making processes and team interactions, creating litmus tests to determine how fair and objective you are truly being as a leader, and where continual adjustments need to be made.

Finally, education through corporate training is a great way for you and your team to learn about unconscious biases that seep their way into the workplace every day. When team members learn to spot their own unconscious biases and those of others, and understand the consequences across the board, this awareness will benefit your organization for years to come.

Searching for an expert on unconscious bias to work with your team? ISC Resources has the corporate training experts you need. Reach out today!