Taking decisions that influence the welfare of others is part of a leader's job. A recent study has identified the cognitive process that can play a role in deciding whether a person has leadership traits or not.
A study conducted by the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich has identified what characterises a common decision process that may distinguish followers from leaders.
In the study leaders of groups 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 neurobiological processes taking place in the brains of the participants, as they were making the decisions, were examined using functional magnetic resonance imaging.
The scientists tested several common instinctive beliefs, such as the notion that individuals who are less afraid of potential losses or taking risks, or who like being in control, will 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. Instead, they found that 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. This shift in the need for certainty was particularly pronounced in people with a strong dislike of responsibility.
Author Micah Edelson said, "Because this framework highlights the change in the amount of certainty required making a decision and not the individual's general tendency for assuming control, it can account for many different leadership types.
These can include authoritarian leaders who make most decisions themselves, and egalitarian leaders who frequently seek a group consensus."
The full findings are present in the journal- Science.