Errors of judgement can cause air crashes and research about the social relations in the cockpit could help CEOs.

One pilot is designated as the “captain” and is responsible for the flight, even though all the first officers in the cockpit are capable of flying the plane.

Captains often have greater experience, higher remuneration and allocate the duties to the other pilot(s). This creates a cockpit hierarchy which can lead to problems.

Errors of judgement that can occur due bias:

  • The captain may hold onto their own views and beliefs in a situation, even when another first officer offers contrary information. (Halo effect bias)
  • A captain may believe his first officers agree with him, more than the first officers really do. (False consensus bias)
  •  A first officer may accept the captain’s judgement, even when they don’t agree with it. (Conformity bias)

These cognitive biases have been attributed to fatal errors of judgement and may be influenced by the personalities, cultures and situation.

Why have a captain at all?

A hierarchy has been shown to be effective in emergencies, as one person takes charge therefore managing the relationships and communication in the cockpit seems to be the key to avoiding disaster.

Lessons for CEOs

These biases can occur in leadership teams and they can be very destructive.

  •  Do not push your own opinion on subordinates as they may not tell you their true feelings.
  •  Take diverse views into account to make well balanced decisions.
  •  Be aware of these biases and avoid them.
  •  Use effective recruitment, mentoring and education to increase your team performance.

Find out how I can help you with executive recruiting, mentoring and improving business performance. Please email or call 0401018282

Thank you Eve Fabre, Postdoctoral Researcher in Cognitive Neuroscience at iSAE-Supaéro for your research into making aviation safer

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