5 leadership tips from “Thinking Fast and Slow”

Lessons for leadership from Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman’s globally bestselling book, as found by Shilpi Prasad, from Text100’s New Delhi office

Lessons for leadership from Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman’s globally bestselling book, as found by Shilpi Prasad, from Text100’s New Delhi office

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman’s global bestseller is one of the most intellectually stimulating collections of insights into the human mind.

I found this book to be similar to meditation: it took me into a trance-like state where I could better understand myself, my feelings and my environment. This awareness allows me to interact with people more effectively and make better decisions. Just like a state of total meditation being difficult to attain, focusing fully while reading the entire book is heavy going. When achieved, however, it does provide more clarity into human behaviour. I found some important lessons for people aspiring to leadership roles. Here are my top five.

1. Take it slow

Make the right decision by not reacting immediately

As explained in the book, systems 1 and 2 govern our actions.

System 1 operates automatically and quickly with no sense of voluntary control. For example, answering back when a client/boss is shouting at you; or making snap judgements about someone from the way they look. Sound familiar?

System 2, on the other hand, takes decisions after thinking and analysing; in short, this system puts more effort into decision making. Due to its nature, System 2 has the ability to change the way System 1 works. System 2 also takes more effort and concentration, and often we tend to go with System 1. As leaders it is important to let System 2 take precedence.

2. Give it to someone

Assigning an owner in a team is important for critical tasks

Leaders should never talk to the whole team and expect things to get done. Instead, assign responsibilities and separate ownership to every individual. Based on an experiment conducted by the author, individuals feel relieved of responsibility when they know that others have heard the same instructions. Even in the case of an urgent, life or death situation, people do not rush to help as they expect others to deal with the situation.

3. Fake it (if you have to)

The art of priming

“Fake it until you make it, or at least until you believe it” can be the mantra for anything you want to achieve in your life. If you lack confidence, change the way you dress, your body language, and your tone of voice until you feel better. Similarly, if you feel you don’t possess qualities of a great leader, just fake it until it becomes second nature.

4. Polish that halo

Always begin with positive highlights

Imagine someone describing two people, Rishi and Amit:

Amit: Intelligent, fun, honest, insecure, rude, short-tempered

Rishi: Rude, insecure, short-tempered, honest, fun, intelligent

Which description has a more positive impact on you? Most likely it was Amit’s, despite the same words in both descriptions. All that changed was the sequence of positive and negative adjectives, which in turn changes the impact. The weight of first impressions are part of the halo effect, sometimes to the point where later information is ignored.

5. Don’t be swayed by the confidence of others

The Illusion of validity 

It is extremely important for a leader to analyse and make informed decisions especially when assessing potential talent. It is easy to be swayed by confidence to the point of overlooking weaknesses in a person.

I was fascinated by how relatable this book was regarding human behaviour, despite being based in scientific disciplines. If you haven’t read it already, I’d highly recommend it!

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