All or Nothing Means I’m Always Right
Feeling strongly about an issue or person encourages even the best leaders on occasion to eliminate the gray and to see things in black and white.
Removing the middle ground gives these leaders even more conviction and removes the need to remain open to competing views. Landing firmly and rigidly on a preferred square is both cognitively efficient and saves time. Everyone falls into this trap now and again. But what happens when thinking in absolutes becomes the norm for a leader?
When a leader begins to see everything as all or nothing, they push information and data to fit the extremes. This enables them to polarize situations, experiences, choices, and people to make fast decisions.
People are either good or bad, trustworthy or deceitful, hardworking or lazy. Tasks become pass or fail, complete or incomplete. Outcomes reflect victory or defeat, success or failure.
Because they see a world without contradiction, competing goals, and unresolved tensions, they soon begin to think decisions are easier than they are. Worse yet, they begin to believe they are always right.
Ironically, it is the need to overcome indecision that typically produces this abnormality in thinking. Instead of struggling through complex issues, these leaders make matters much more simple. In self-defense, they turn everything they see into extremes of black or white. Whenever they are forced to acknowledge the complexities and nuances of an issue, they are equally fast to throw in the towel. They have little patience for thinking through a problem.
Placing leaders who exhibit this defect on teams and in groups that are required to work through a problem or issue helps them immensely. Anything that slows down decision-making by creating a more deliberate process can help them see the evil of their ways. Anytime others push them to see and appreciate the gray, it puts a dent in their worldview.
Organizations would do best not to give leaders with this flaw the power to make unilateral decisions. They should always require leaders who think in black and white to reach consensus before reaching a conclusion. Short of that, removing from them the positional power to lead others is a good idea.
It is smart to remember the decisions they make are usually flawed and the people they reward sound just like them.
So ironic that the trait of decisiveness is so often correlated to good leadership when that is just about as far from the truth as you can get.