Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Successors in politics or business.

Listening to a story about the King of Nepal gave me a thought. When a new leader, either in politics (President or King) or business (CEO or even plant manager) follows a particularly loved or hated predecessor, there are a few things that seem to come up.

1. They often stake out policies that are more extreme than they would based just on their original position, in part to make it clear that they are "their own man" (or woman).

2. They also sometimes are less willing to respond to criticism or failure.

The first one makes sense from a Human Factors point of view. In order to differentiate yourself from your predecessor (and have any hope at being remembered in history), you have to make the distinction clear, or stakeholders' schema will lump you together with the predecessor. If he/she was loved, this lumping will make you more likely to be loved, but less likely to get any credit or for people to follow you as the new leader. So staking out a new direction makes sense. If he/she was hated, then the distinction is even more important.

But what about this second one? I have a theory. It is possible that the policies of the predecessor are strongly connected to "policies of other" because a) they are not your policies and b) you are trying to differentiate yourself from them anyway. Policies of critics are strongly connected to "policies of other" because a) they are not your policies and b) criticisms always get connected to negative affect. So it makes sense that the same response will occur.

Failures could work the same way. It makes sense to try to disassociate yourself from your failures by blaming them on external factors. This is a common decision making bias in HF research. So they get connected to "others" as well, even if they are your own fault.

So this could explain the King of Nepal's (and president Bush) intransigence in the face of failure.

What do you think?