If you tend to cringe when asked to take crucial decisions that might also affect others, or wish that someone else could take decisions on your behalf, you cannot make a good leader.
According to a study, led by researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, responsibility aversion or unwillingness to take decisions that also affect the welfare of others, sets followers apart from the leaders.
Leaders are more willing to take responsibility for making decisions that affect the welfare of others, and do not delegate decision-making.
Conversely, responsibility aversion was driven by a greater need for certainty about the best course of action when the decision also had an effect on others, said the researchers, in the paper published in the journal Science.
"Because this framework highlights the change in the amount of certainty required to make a decision, and not the individual's general tendency for assuming control, it can account for many different leadership types," said lead author Micah Edelson from the varsity.
"These can include authoritarian leaders who make most decisions themselves, and egalitarian leaders who frequently seek a group consensus," he added.
In the study, the participants were divided into groups in which the leaders of groups had to take decisions on certain issues. They could either make a decision themselves or delegate it to the group.
A distinction was drawn between 'self' trials, in which the decision only affected the decision-makers themselves, and 'group' trials, in which there were consequences for the whole group.
The team tested several common intuitive beliefs, such as the notion that individuals who were less afraid of potential losses or taking risks, or who liked being in control, and would be more willing to take on responsibility for others.
These characteristics, however, did not explain the differing extent of responsibility aversion found in the study participants.
This shift in the need for certainty was particularly pronounced in people with a strong aversion to responsibility, the researchers said.
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