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Voters urged to look beyond leaders’ image this general election

#GE19 – Modern leaders must demonstrate flexibility in order to be effective

Over 3.1 million people have applied to register to vote in the upcoming UK general election, with The Electoral Office reporting the figures as record breaking. As a surge of voters go to the polls on the 12th of December in what is expected to be one of the most polarising elections of recent history, business psychology experts The Myers-Briggs Company urges voters to use self-awareness to look beyond the traditional image of leadership.

Modern leaders need to demonstrate flexibility to be successful, rather than project an outdated ‘great man’ persona. This is according to The Myers-Briggs Company’s global trends report, ‘People First for Organizational Fitness’ which drew on the responses of 1.3 million respondents to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment to show that a more inclusive style of leadership is under-represented in business leaders.

In times of political anxiety, it is common for voters to turn to dominant, self-assured leaders that project an image of confidence. Sadly, such leaders are too often narcissistic and overconfident. The Myers-Briggs Company report reveals that while individuals who are more narcissistic are more likely to become leaders, they are likely to perform less effectively in this role than others.

Psychological research tells us that the experts who sound most confident and authoritative are generally listened to more and believed in more fully. This is because humans instinctively respond to confidence in a positive way. However, those who sound most self-assured in their pronouncements aren’t necessarily the most accurate or truthful. In fact, research has revealed that experts who sound the most confident are also the most likely to get things wrong. Therefore, overzealous and over-confident leaders can mean potential dangers for both the political scene and the workplace.

While this type of leadership may seem appealing in times of political turmoil, effective leadership is no longer about the characteristics of the individual leader; it’s about how a group or a team of leaders can lead an organisation, or party, together. The negative effects of overconfidence are often exacerbated by ‘group think’, where in the rush to make decisions, information that is inconvenient to the story constructed by the leader is ignored.

John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company, commented:

“In the current political climate of uncertainty, conflict, and relentless Brexit noise, it can be easy to be convinced by an overconfident style of leadership. However, narcissism cannot be conflated with effective leadership. One way to counter this initial reaction, in both the political and workplace spheres, is to build self-awareness.

“By becoming more aware of their own personality and biases, individuals can make more informed decisions, helping them to overcome the pressure to follow ‘group think’ and be taken in by overconfident leaders.  Rather than reject others input and acting alone, it is the role of leaders to consider how to be flexible in their leadership and management, as well as recognise how to build a dynamic team that possesses different skills.  This is perhaps advice that our political leaders could take note of. As a record number of voters go to the polls this December, we would encourage voters to utilise self-awareness to see through the hype, and make the best decision for their families, businesses and themselves. And maybe, just maybe, our political leaders should remind themselves that confidence does not necessarily equate to ability.”

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