Biden and his backers are falling for the sunk cost fallacy

Biden and his backers are falling for the sunk cost fallacy

Chitra Ragavan writes:

Joe Biden’s self-inflicted electoral crisis is a classic case study in the “sunk cost fallacy.” As Vice President Kamala Harris and party leaders pour resources into the president’s flailing campaign, the argument that Biden is the only one who can defeat Donald Trump in November and “protect democracy” is increasingly falling on electoral and donor deaf ears.

Coined in 1980 by economist Richard Thaler, the sunk-cost fallacy describes a cognitive bias that leads people to double down on failed strategies in which they have invested time, resources and emotional energy.

Thaler used this concept to describe the irrational decisions that went into the failed multibillion-dollar effort in the 1960s and 1970s to build the supersonic Concorde jet. As an executive leadership coach to CEOs and founders, I have identified three lessons from Biden’s failure to ensure his party’s success in November and three tactical recommendations. Otherwise, he faces a serious risk: becoming the Concorde of politics.

There are three takeaways. First, it’s important for leaders in any field, be it business or politics, to build a succession plan and a deep bench should they get “hit by a bus,” literally or figuratively. They must train their successors assiduously and give them all their wisdom and knowledge to step in should the need arise. Above all, instead of constantly investing in themselves, they must get out of the spotlight and let those new leaders shine — something Biden has failed to do.

Next is an insight a former tech founder gave me when I entered the C-suite: “Understand that your biggest strengths could also be your biggest weaknesses. And you must compensate for that.”

In Biden’s case, his stubbornness and loyalty have helped him overcome tremendous odds in life and work, bounce back from tragedies, and build strong teams that have followed him throughout his career. However, those traits have resulted in tunnel vision and “savior syndrome,” thinking he is the only one who can “save” America.

Third, great leaders not only turn to their trusted circle for advice but also know how to build concentric circles of honest brokers who have no vested interest in the outcome — and aren’t afraid to disagree with these leaders, no matter how powerful. They remind their circles that they need honest advice, no matter how unpalatable. The president’s reputed loyalty has resulted in his refusal to let people go, resulting in a stagnant team of staffers and power-hungry advisers who allowed him to become a sitting duck on the debate stage. Somewhere along the line, his team stopped telling Biden the truth, with embarrassing consequences. [Continue reading…]

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