IDEA IN BRIEF
Charismatic leaders are often confident in their opinions. They have definite answers, can galvanise those around them into action and are always eager to “save the day”. In times of crisis, however, these very qualities are ones that can lead to poor decisions. Behind many business failures, there is a strong charismatic leader who seems to know all the answers. Rather than taking an exploratory approach to problems, charismatic leaders often jump to hasty conclusions, make premature commitments and offer ready solutions. In times of crisis, those who possess these qualities are seen as the most attractive candidates for leadership roles. People living through periods of disruption can experience an irresistible urge to recover a sense of security. They often crave definite answers and tend to accept quick fixes at the expense of long-term solutions.
Leaders who are comfortable with uncertainty and acknowledge ambiguity might be a better fit when dealing with the sorts of ambiguous problems thrown up by a crisis. They withhold judgement if the situation is unclear. They are willing to take the extra step to understand the situation before committing to a course of action. They refuse to jump to conclusions or offer solutions prematurely. However, this attitude is the exact reason why they fall behind. From an outside perspective, the very qualities that make them exceptional leaders can, in times of crisis, diminish their apparent competence. They often look less confident, less decisive, and this can seem like weakness when times are tough. Therefore, in many instances, the most competent leaders are the ones who tend to miss out in the competition for leadership roles.
While researching this topic, I came across quite a few articles on the internet that praise the notion of charismatic leadership. The writers of these popular articles argue that charisma is an essential and indispensable ability for today’s leaders. Charisma is considered the “magic factor” that sets apart real leaders, the invisible and irresistible quality that inclines people towards following a particular individual.
Let’s examine several of the more common popular beliefs about charismatic leaders.
- Energy -> They are energetic people, constantly on the move and always ready to take action.
- Motivation -> They are highly motivated and are not easily discouraged by setbacks.
- Optimism -> Their glass is always half full. They can see opportunity in every hopeless situation.
- Charming confidence -> They radiate positivity. They have a sense of irresistibility. They can motivate and encourage others to take action.
Here, in brief, are a few of the arguments I make in what follows.
- Charisma is not a personality trait that distinguishes “good” leaders from “bad” ones.
- Charisma alone won’t make you a leader. It is neither necessary nor sufficient for successful leadership. You don’t need charisma to influence people.
- There is such a thing as too much charisma. Charisma can be a powerful force. But it has the potential to become self-serving. It can be a source of close-mindedness and of polarised, black-and-white thinking. It can lead to oversimplification and the adopting of a narrow perspective. Too much charisma can sometimes result in huge decision-making failures.
THE MEANING OF CHARISMA – Let’s get our definitions right
Charismatic leadership is also known as charismatic authority or charismatic domination. The word “charisma” is an ancient Greek term. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, it refers to a “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.” The concept first emerged in the religious sphere. However, thanks to the work of sociologist and historian Max Weber it has become popularised as a sociological concept and is now widely used in leadership literature.
Charisma originally referred to a person with extraordinary abilities, as perceived by the members of that person’s group. In a religious context, this might mean that someone was seen as “touched by God” and having access to insights not available to others. A charismatic leader is someone who is seen by others as being more than an ordinary person, sometimes even as a supernatural or superhuman being.
There is, however, a caveat here. Weber argued that charisma is not a personality trait. The power of charisma lies in the relationship between the leader and the members of the group. In other words, we have a chicken and egg problem. Do people follow someone because of his or her extraordinary charisma? OR does someone become charismatic BECAUSE OF the devotion shown to that person by others. Weber suggests that it is the latter. On his interpretation, the emergence of any charismatic leader is determined by the devotion of their followers and is not an intrinsic ability of the leader. When members of a group show recognition of a leader’s exceptional abilities, then that leader is offered the opportunity to become charismatic, but not vice versa. The key term here is recognition: a charismatic leader’s power derives from being recognised by others and not just from having certain personality traits.
With the original sense of charismatic authority, we are not talking about any of the attributes associated with charisma today. A charismatic leader need not be outgoing, overwhelmingly confident, full of energy, externally charming, highly motivated or optimistic. All of these attributes are personality traits mistakenly associated with charismatic leadership; yet the original meaning of being a charismatic leader was something entirely different.
WHAT CHARISMA HAS TO DO WITH LEADERSHIP?
Perhaps the most straightforward definition of leadership that I’ve come across is that offered by leadership expert John Maxwell. Maxwell has written more than 50 books on the topic; his contribution to the field is extraordinary. He offers this definition:
“Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.”
He also warns us of the dangers of being too concerned about position and formal authority. Not paying enough attention to building meaningful relationships between leader and followers can lead to loss of influence. Every one of us has a certain amount of “social capital”. Power based solely on formal authority is strictly limited. It is like a gas tank that can run out of fuel. If we don’t strengthen formal power with informal influence, we can lose our “charisma” sooner than we might think.
This relates to Max Weber’s observation that real charisma is about the relationship between people, rather than a trait.
CHARISMA IS NOT A PERSONALITY TRAIT
Historian Warren Susman argues that during the last century our world shifted from a culture of character to a culture of personality. Before the appearance of personality-oriented culture, character strengths, such as wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence, were the ultimate measure of one’s value in society. As researcher and bestselling author Susan Chain writes: “In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private.” The shift occurred shortly after the industrial revolution. As people started to form larger and larger societal groups they needed to interact with more and more people. And with this shift, an extroverted personality ideal was born. In today’s fast-changing society we care a great deal about how others perceive us. Being an outgoing, sociable and talkative person has become widely associated with success, leadership, charm and charisma.
Talkativeness has become equated with intelligence, and we perceive dominant personalities as more intelligent. However, studies show there is absolutely no correlation between how outgoing and talkative a person is and the quality of the insights they generate. Nor is there any evidence that more talking leads to better decisions. In other words, while talkative people may be perceived as smarter, in reality they exhibit similar levels of competence to their less talkative peers.
To borrow a metaphor from influential sociologist Erin Goffman, life is a theatre. We all have many different “masks” we don in different situations while interacting with different people. We carefully craft our self-image and modify it when the circumstances change. This is not a new idea. Shakespeare famously wrote: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.”
Indeed, in the new era of personality-oriented culture, our main concern has become the image that we present to the outside world. Problems start to arise when our core values are at odds with the way we present ourselves and the way we behave in certain social situations; or when we use make use of a carefully crafted image in a calculating fashion, purely to achieve our goals. Unfortunately, this “showing off” attitude is very common in today’s personality-oriented culture. To quote Dave Ramsey: “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”
LEADERSHIP AND DECISION MAKING
Harvard Business School professor Ronald Heifetz argues there are two broad categories of problems that organisations face.
- Technical problems. These are the routine problems we all face on a daily basis. We know the answers to these problems; we can solve them every time we need to. These are not necessarily easy problems; but society has already developed solutions to overcome them.
- Adaptive challenges. These are new sorts of problems or opportunities, ones for which we don’t yet know the answer. Uncertainty is high, and there are lots of unknown variables that require figuring out. We don’t yet have the knowledge and expertise to solve these problems. Sometimes we don’t even know the directions and the means through which to solve them. Today’s technical problems were yesterday’s adaptive challenges. And if we are doing a good job, then today’s adaptive challenges become tomorrow’s technical problems.
Ronald Heifetz argues that when we face technical problems, we don’t really need leadership. Instead, we need strong management to sustain order and keep things running smoothly. We do, however, need leaders in times of crisis and uncertainty. When dealing with the unknown and figuring out possible solutions that might or might not work, leadership is crucial.
Leadership isn’t always a popularity contest. Leaders can be and should be the ones who bring tough issues to the table. Like-minded people often have a tendency to ignore tough issues, sensitive topics and tough conversations. They seek harmony and equilibrium. This is understandable. But it can sometimes lead to complacency and detachment from reality. People who restrict themselves to discussing positive, motivating and inspiring topics can build a certain kind of bubble around themselves. By filtering out “unwanted” information and relying exclusively on existing assumptions and beliefs, people can end up with a stale, distorted perception of reality. Instead, it is better to adopt an open-minded approach that welcomes the contributions of those with views we disagree with or that contradict the “picture” we have painted about a certain situation.
JUMPING TO SOLUTIONS PREMATURELY
We usually experience adaptive challenges in times of crisis, when there is a certain amount of ambiguity and uncertainty in the air. Often, we don’t know how events will unfold. In these situations, the last thing we need is a leader who seems to know every answer, who is absolutely confident in his or her opinion. Decision-making experts state that one of the most frequent reasons for decision-making failures is premature commitment. Committing to a course of action before understanding the problem properly can be costly.
Decision-making expert Paul Nutt writes: “At the first sign of unrest, decision makers feel an urge to calm troubled waters, and this urge is very hard to resist. To head off unrest, a decision maker jumps on the first bland alternative that comes along—one with no bad features but no good ones either. This shuts off discussion about what to do. It is just this situation, with its moderate level of perceived conflict, that can increase the chances of finding a good idea.” He also notes: “Crisis and its urgent need to take speedy action rarely occur. (…) Only one in ten decisions has significant urgency, and only one in a hundred can be called a crisis. Were it not for their devastating consequences, the attention devoted to decisions with urgency and crisis would be out of place.”
Crises are times that cry out for someone who doesn’t know all the answers; someone who can withhold judgement until after they have made sense of the situation; someone who can resist the urge to jump to conclusions prematurely. Trying to solve the problem before understanding it is a classic mistake made by many executives. Times of crisis call for someone who is able to find the root cause of the problem and not just deal with immediate symptoms. If we are trying to execute the first solution that pops into our head, there is a risk that we entirely misread the problem. In ambiguous situations we need to be thoughtful, carefully considering all the options before committing to a course of action. Does all this sound like the classic charismatic leader who galvanises everyone and is eager to take action? I don’t think so.
DOMINANT OPINION VS DIVERSITY OF PERSPECTIVES
Inspiring others with a strong vision is a one-sided transaction. There is only one vision, and that is the vision of the strong leader. However, when we are in an uncertain and ambiguous situation, there is rarely just one single answer to the problem. Constructing a strategy that works involves choosing between many different scenarios and possibilities. By definition, in uncertain situations, we cannot know all the answers in advance. There are just possibilities and probabilities to work with. Before inspiring others to take action, perhaps we would do better to try to understand the problem we are dealing with.
There is a well-established consensus among social scientists that inviting a diverse range of opinions to take part in a discussion can greatly enhance the quality of decisions. For instance, let’s consider a 2003 paper by decision-making experts Philip Tetlock and Jennifer Lerner, in which they distinguish between “confirmatory thought” and “exploratory thought” in group settings. Confirmatory thought aims to justify and rationalise an opinion or assumption we already have. It can lead to group biases, unexamined possibilities and bad decisions. Exploratory thought involves considering the problem from many different perspectives. It involves a more open-minded exploration of reality, considering the problem from many different perspectives. They write: “Whereas confirmatory thought involves a one-sided attempt to rationalize a particular point of view, exploratory thought involves even-handed consideration of alternative points of view.” They also note: “Quite often, however, thinking harder (…) does not equate to thinking better.”
Philip Tetlock also showed us, in his influential 2015 book, that trusting a single person’s opinion about the future is not the best approach. When it comes to prediction and decision making, a diverse group of people can greatly outperform even the most knowledgeable and experienced expert. This suggests that the best way of making good decisions might be to invite a diverse group of people with a broad range of knowledge into the decision-making process; then consider the issue from many different perspectives; then integrate contrary opinions into one single narrative.
James Surowiecki, in his influential 2004 book, The Wisdom of Crowds, has made similar observations. We get the point even if we just look at the book’s subtitle: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations. Large groups of people with divergent perspectives can outperform decision making undertaken by individuals or in small-group settings. Surowiecki’s findings are quite universal in their applicability. This approach can be used in decision making, forecasting, problem solving, in business and in many other settings as well.
To borrow John Stuart Mill’s words on the topic: “The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner.”
MISTAKING THE MESSAGE WITH THE MESSENGER
The appearance of success can be contagious. Our impression of a person formed through gauging the success of their actions in one area can influence our opinion of that person’s abilities in other areas as well. This is known as the halo effect. However, by confounding an individual’s specific successes or expertise with that person’s abilities in general, we risk mistaking the message with the messenger. For example, we often think of physically attractive people as being more intelligent and trustworthy. We associate hight with leadership abilities: tall people are more likely to rise to top leadership roles. Indeed, one study found that in business settings, an inch of height is worth approximately $789 per year in salary. Another study found that among UK business leaders, even facial width-to-height ratio can affect perceived dominance.
We often assume that a CEO who has built a successful organisation must be successful in other areas of life as well. These biases are often unconscious.
As an example, let’s imagine we are discussing the canonisation of Catholic saints with a group of people including the pope. The pope’s opinion on this topic is relevant because of his expertise in religious matters. If discussion were then to turn to the topic of French cuisine or baseball or the weather, we would continue to view the pope as a reliable source of information due to his recognised power and influence in other areas. This is despite the fact that he cannot reasonably be considered to possess any greater expertise in these areas than other participants in the discussion.
We can observe the same phenomenon at play in viral videos posted by celebrities on social media in which they offer their opinions on topics about which they have no specific expertise. For example, when Elon Musk is talking about analogical reasoning, Bill Gates is talking about parenting, Leonardo DiCaprio is talking about climate change, Jeff Bezos is talking about his sleeping habits. We often tend to accept ideas and opinions from these people as being some sort of unquestionable revelation.
Charismatic leaders often find that people listen uncritically to what they have to say and accept their pronouncements without question. These circumstances pose a great temptation for leaders to wander outside their own areas of expertise. In tandem with the acquiring of more and more power, it requires ever greater levels of strength and humility to restrict oneself to one’s “circle of competence” and refuse to give advice in areas in which one lacks the requisite expertise.
CAN SOMEONE HAVE TOO MUCH CHARISMA?
People don’t see reality in its pure form. They are constantly monitoring the environment and the reactions of others around them. There is a strong and irresistible evolutionary need to consider oneself as a part of the group, as classic psychological studies on conformity show us. When we “internalise” the norms of the group, people literally think like one, homogeneous big mind. We can easily observe these tightly-bound groups in companies and startups with a strong culture. These high-performing groups undeniably have their own advantages. But they also have their downsides.
- There is little or no divergence of opinions.
- People often see situations from one single perspective. There is no wandering around the problem to consider it from different angles.
- There can be little or no confrontation or productive conflict.
Perhaps most importantly, however, the most powerful person’s opinion becomes even more powerful. It will come to dominate the group’s overarching perspective and the approaches that members adopt to solve a problem. It will act like a revelation, a single source of truth, one that the members of the group can come to accept unquestioningly.
To illustrate this point, just think about two other forms of highly coherent, consistent and closed group settings: cults and maffias. Leaders of these groups are perhaps always considered as extremely charismatic. Sometimes even supernatural power is attributed to them. Their opinion is unquestionable. The norms of the group become deeply ingrained in the identity of their members. If they question the rules and norms by which the group operates, they also question their very identity. It is therefore much easier and more desirable for members to just get along. Social scientists have a word for this phenomenon. They call it groupthink.
But what if the charismatic leader’s intentions are not genuine? In many cases, even if it is obvious from the outside, from the inside these situations can look quite different. Members don’t always have the sort of outsider perspective that would enable them to question and critically examine the intentions of their leader. These groups can sometimes become powerful social structures spinning around one powerful charismatic figure, regardless of any original intentions. Just think about the rise and fall of controversial ideologies and extremely strong social groups throughout the course of the last century.
Another quote from Peter Drucker seems apt at this point, one which is both slightly disturbing and highly relevant. Drucker cautions us against the urge to put our faith in strong leaders, observing: “The three greatest leaders of the twentieth century were Hitler, Stalin and Mao.”
In the world of business, even in less radical circumstances a leader with too much power can lead to bad decision making. This kind of power dynamics is often referred to as “The genius with a 1000 helpers”. We create such situations when we put all decision-making powers into the hands of a single individual. This structure is a self-reinforcing one. The person with power has no interest in sharing it and thus weakening his or her position. Therefore, they often surround themselves with less powerful, less experienced people who share the same opinions and points of view. But building the success of our business on a single individual rather than on robust, impersonal processes can backfire. What happens if that person makes a mistake? Is there any process for checking the quality of the decisions they make? What happens when that person is gone? or if things turn out disastrously and we can’t easily find another individual with similar “abilities”?
THE PARADOX OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP
In times of great uncertainty, leaders who have definite ideas and strong beliefs can appeal as appearing more confident, decisive and ultimately more competent for the job. Acknowledging ambiguity makes someone look less confident. When adaptive challenges arise, we cannot be sure if our answers are the right ones. First, we need to gain an understanding of the situation we are dealing with. What if the leader’s opinion turns out to be wrong? In disruptive times, too much certainty can be as costly as too little. By definition, there are no clear answers, nor easy definitions, of the problems that arise during these periods. Such certainty in one’s beliefs would be justified if the situation at hand were easy to understand and the solution straightforward. But in that case, we don’t really need a leader.
It is very hard for leaders not to offer solutions but first try to understand the root cause of the problem. In times of disruption, people lose their sense of control and predictability. They look on leaders to bring hope and certainty, to give them their sense of security back. After all, they are leaders, they should have answers, they should bring solutions to the table, they should lead confidently. Or should they? When the level of uncertainty is huge, a single person is not always able to see things from multiple perspectives. In cases where there are no clear answers, it is crucial to discover all the options and consider all the possibilities. It is just these sorts of leaders, however, leaders who acknowledge their limits and don’t rush headlong into hasty decisions, who are often pushed into the background. This is the great paradox of charismatic leadership.
Two noteworthy examples to illustrate the point
Consider Neville Chamberlain in the lead-up to World War II. In buying time for Britain, which was unprepared for war, Chamberlain’s actions saved thousands of lives. Yet we still remember him as someone who was weak, a leader who failed to take action in time of need.
Taking action immediately after a problem arises can foster a sense that progress is being made. But this doesn’t mean that we are necessarily working on the right problem or going in the right direction.
Let’s consider another case. At the Vienna General Hospital in Austria in the 1840s, about 16% of newborns were dying from puerperal sepsis, known as childbed fever. A young doctor, Ignácz Semmelweis, observed a strange phenomenon, that neither he nor any of his colleagues were able to explain. Babies delivered by doctors were five times more likely to die than babies delivered by midwifes. Despite doctors being more educated and supposedly more professional, pregnant women would do anything they could to be assigned to a midwife rather than a doctor. Semmelweis resisted the urge to offer easy explanations and quick fixes. Instead, he conducted a large-scale experiment, separating hospital staff into different groups and rigorously observing their behaviour. After considerable time, effort and resistance from hospital staff, he found there was one single factor that offered a possible explanation for the differences: handwashing. Hygiene practices during that time were incomparable with the conditions with which we are familiar today. Doctors often performed autopsies on dead bodies right before assisting at childbirths. Following introduction of a strict handwashing policy, childbed fever dropped from 16% to 2%. Yet, Semmelweis could not easily explain his findings. People demanded a causal explanation and a reasonable “scientific” answer to the problem. Semmelweis faced significant resistance from those around him, and from people at all levels. He was told, “Doctors are gentlemen (…) and gentlemen’s hands are clean.” Without a clear and straightforward explanation, people were unwilling to accept his findings. They demanded clear answers, even though they were facing a situation that was inexplicable through recourse to the current state of scientific knowledge. In 1865 Semmelweis suffered a nervous breakdown. Shortly after, he was admitted to a public asylum, where he died at the age of forty-seven.
Roughly around the same time, a French biologist named Louis Pasteur became interested in the same kind of problem. His research into the causes of mysterious and contagious illnesses led shortly thereafter to the discovery of germs and with that the emergence of “germ theory”. Simultaneously, Joseph Lister—doctor, member of the Royal Society, a man considered the “father of modern surgery”—had been experimenting with different sterilisation techniques. He subsequently introduced basically the same handwashing policies that Semmelweis had tried to introduce in the first place.
People demanded answers and explanations, even when there were none. They were eager to explain the complexity of the situation through straightforward causal explanations. Leaders who are unable or unwilling to give easy answers are often pushed to the periphery of action.
ABILITIES OF A NON-CHARISMATIC LEADER
- Ability to rethink one’s assumptions in the light of new evidence.
- Ability to integrate contradictory opinions into a single worldview.
- Ability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. This means getting comfortable with saying “I don’t know” and not jumping to conclusions just so as to look confident and competent.
- Ability to see things from many different perspectives. This involves listening to others, seeking out new opinions and accepting other ways of seeing the world.
- Not seeing only the half of the glass that is full, BUT ALSO considering factors outside one’s control. Envisioning the future is not enough in times of uncertainty and disruption. We also need to carefully consider everything that can go wrong. (I’ve written an article about this topic.)
- Relying on personality attributes to judge somebody’s leadership abilities can be misleading. It is easy to confuse great presentation skills and an outgoing attitude with the ability to lead and influence others.
- Charisma is not a personality trait and is not intrinsic to the person of the leader. Its power derives from the relationship between the leader and his or her followers.
- In times of certainty we don’t need strong leadership. We need great management. In times of uncertainty we need leaders who are capable of acknowledging ambiguity. By definition we don’t have all the answers. We need to approach problems with an open-minded attitude, avoiding jumping to conclusions prematurely and solving the wrong problem.
- The paradox of charismatic leadership: leaders with absolute certainty in their beliefs can seem appealing as they appear more confident. Yet the very abilities crucial to making a great leader in times of crisis and uncertainty are also the ones that make him or her less competent for the job. We crave certainty, even if there is none. It is just the sort of open-minded leader that we need in times of crisis who often loses his or her influence. This is partly because he or she refuses to jump to hasty conclusions or offer solutions prematurely.
- There is such a thing as too much charisma. It can lead to groupthink and polarisation of opinions and can be the reason behind many failed decisions.
Peter Drucker quotes
- Peter F. Drucker, The Leader of the Future 2: New Visions, Strategies, and Practices for the Next Era (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), xi–xii
- Rich Karlgaard, “Peter Drucker on Leadership,” Forbes.com, November 19, 2004.
- Dictionaries, Oxford Oxford. The Oxford American Minidictionary. Oxford University Press, USA, 2004.
Max Weber on charismatic authority
- Weber, Max. The theory of social and economic organization. Simon and Schuster, 2009.
John Maxwell on leadership
- Maxwell, John C. The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership: follow them and people will follow you. MG Books, 1998;
- Maxwell, John C. The 5 Levels of Leadership. BookBaby, 2014.
Warren Susman on the culture of personality
- Warren Susman, Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2003), 271–85
Studies on character strengths
- Park, Nansook, and Christopher Peterson. “Character strengths: Research and practice.” Journal of college and character 10.4 (2009): 1-10. Link here;
- Ang, Audrey Poh Sin. “An observational study of character strengths and subjective wellbeing in Australian and Singaporean pre-adolescents.” Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Flinders University (2016).
Susan Chain on extraverted ideal
- Cain, Susan, Gregory Mone, and Erica Moroz. Quiet power: the secret strengths of introverts. Penguin, 2016.
We perceive dominant personalities as more intelligent
- Delroy L. Paulhus and Kathy L. Morgan, “Perceptions of Intelligence in Leaderless Groups: The Dynamic Effects of Shyness and Acquaintance,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 72, no. 3 (1997): 581–91;
- Cameron Anderson and Gavin Kilduff, “Why Do Dominant Personalities Attain Influence in Face-to-Face Groups? The Competence Signaling Effects of Trait Dominance,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96, no. 2 (2009): 491–503
Erin Goffman on life as a theatre
- Goffman, Erving. The presentation of self in everyday life. Vol. 21. London: Harmondsworth, 1978.
- Shakespeare, William. As You Like It: Third Series. Vol. 3. A&C Black, 2006, Act 2, Scene 7
Dave Ramsey quote
- Ramsey, Dave. The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. Thomas Nelson, 2013
Ronald Heifetz on leadership
- Linsky, Marty, and Heifetz, Ronald A.. Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading. United States, Harvard Business Review Press, 2002.
- Linsky, Marty, et al. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. United States, Harvard Business Review Press, 2009.
- Heifetz, Ronald A.. Leadership Without Easy Answers. United Kingdom, Harvard University Press, 2009
On premature commitments and decision failures
- Nutt, Paul C. Why Decisions Fail: Avoiding the Blunders and Traps That Lead to Debacles: Easyread Edition. ReadHowYouWant. com, 2009
- Nutt, Paul C. “Surprising but true: Half the decisions in organizations fail.” Academy of Management Perspectives 13.4 (1999): 75-90.
Vision as a one-sided transaction
- Rumelt, Richard P.. Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Saint Lucia, Profile Books, 2017
On group interactions
- Lemer, J. S., et al. “Bridging individual, interpersonal, and institutional approaches to judgment and choice: The impact of accountability on cognitive bias.” Emerging Perspectives on Judgment and Decision Research, eds. SL, Schneider, J. Shanteau (2003): 431-457.
- Tetlock, Philip, and Gardner, Dan. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction. United Kingdom, Random House, 2015.
- Janis, Irving Lester. Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. United States, Houghton Mifflin, 1983.
- Sunstein, Cass R., and Hastie, Reid. Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter. United States, Harvard Business Review Press, 2015.
John Stuart Mill quote
- Mill, John Stuart, On Liberty. London: Walter Scott Publishing, 1859
- Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. Switzerland, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.
- Kanazawa, Satoshi; Kobar, Jody L. (May 2004). “Why beautiful people are more intelligent”. Intelligence. 32 (3): 227–243
- Landy, David; Sigall, Harold (1974). “Beauty is talent: Task evaluation as a function of the performer’s physical attractiveness”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 29 (3): 299–304
- Efran, Michael G. (June 1974). “The effect of physical appearance on the judgment of guilt, interpersonal attraction, and severity of recommended punishment in a simulated jury task”. Journal of Research in Personality. 8 (1): 45–54
- Alrajih, Shuaa, and Jamie Ward. “Increased facial width‐to‐height ratio and perceived dominance in the faces of the UK’s leading business leaders.” British Journal of Psychology 105.2 (2014): 153-161.
- Ross, Howard. “Exploring unconscious bias.” Diversity best Practices (2008).
- Self, Robert C. Neville Chamberlain: a biography. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006.
Semmelweis case study
- Lindsey Fitzharris, The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine (New York: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017)
- Sherwin Nuland, The Doctors’ Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignác Semmelweis (New York: Norton, 2004)
- On Louis Pasteur: Louise E. Robbins, Louis Pasteur and the Hidden World of Microbes (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).
- On Joseph Lister: Lindsey Fitzharris, The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017).
- On our irresistable urge to find causal explanations to problems: Mayer-Schoenberger, Viktor, et al. Framers: Human Advantage in an Age of Technology and Turmoil. United Kingdom, Ebury Publishing, 2021.