What is the Best Characteristic for Business Leaders?

There are many candidates, but perhaps something like: “Strongly stated weak priors” (priors are a Bayesian statistics concept that roughly translates to: “How strongly do you believe what you believe based on prior evidence?”). Leaders must be flexible enough to quickly change their mind in the face of contradictory information or the emergence of a better plan from colleagues, but must sound confident so that subordinates will feel motivated to undertake the given direction and not too often challenge the leader. A leader that has weakly stated weak priors will too often induce endless vacillation. But making a wrong decision and gaining momentum is often a better alternative than making no decision at all or to making a series of quick direction changes whenever a new piece of information emerges. As Gary Vaynerchuk said just yesterday on his Snapchat channel, it’s better to make a wrong decision and then adapt to it than to make a slow decision. A leader with strong priors will too often ignore contradictory evidence and lead the business down a wrong path without the flexibility to adapt.

Or perhaps an even better candidate for a characteristic is “Strongly stated weak priors wrapped around a core of genuinely strongly held beliefs.” As I stated in my last post many of the most famous business leaders in recent memory likely held as their most worthwhile talent shaping the world to their vision whether or not that vision had any real merit to begin with. But during the long road to bringing their vision to light they had to both lead and follow the recommendations of their lieutenants (as long as the lieutenants views didn’t contradict one of their strongly held beliefs.”)


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