The Ethical Executive: Becoming Aware of the Root Causes of Unethical Behavior: 45 Psychological Traps That Every One of Us Falls Prey To

By Robert Hoyk; Paul Hersey | Go to book overview
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TRAP 42 :
AUTHORITARIANISM

SOMETIMES leaders can have personalities that are authoritarian. This trait can actually be measured by a questionnaire that psychologist Bob Altemeyer has created—the RWA-Scale. These leaders often grew up in a family that emphasized “dominance and obedience to authority.” [Italics added.] As children, authoritarian leaders were taught to be “respectful” and “dutiful,” and if they disobeyed, they would often receive severe punishment. An example of one of the questions on the RWA-Scale is, “Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn.” Authoritarian leaders tend to be “aggressive or punitive” in their style.1 They tend to adhere strongly to “traditional social norms.”2

Executives who have authoritarian traits dominate groups, are highly directive, and tend to squelch any dissent. They have a difficult time tolerating opposition, disagreement, or resistance to their ideas and direction. When dissent is stifled, the influence of conformity (trap 11) is magnified. Remember, in regard to conformity, if just one person voices disagreement with the group opinion, the influence of conformity drops by a factor of 28 percent! The authoritarian leader, then, fortifies the trap of conformity by squashing any dissent within the group.

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