Luck or effort: understanding the impact of attribution bias in leadership

Attribution bias in leadership: Is it effort or luck?

From politicians making major policy decisions to managers deploying resources between projects, leaders often need to make decisions where the outcome may be uncertain.

Using experiments involving human participants, this team of researchers are investigating how a leader's decision-making is evaluated in the face of uncertainty, and whether there are systematic biases that influence how their decisions are assessed by team members.

For example, if the effort put into a decision cannot be seen, how do observers assess the outcome? Are good outcomes more likely to be attributed to luck and bad outcomes more likely to be attributed to low effort?


With fear of failure seen as one of the major impediments of innovation and corporate growth, there is a growing need for an understanding of how attribution biases impact on the decisions of leaders.

This research enhances understanding of what perpetuates a culture of fear of failure and the impact on decision-making of leaders who are worried about being negatively judged for their failures, and who may take on less risk than optimal in order to seek approval from their followers.


Professor Lata Gangadharan, Department of Economics, Monash University

Boon Han Koh, PhD Candidate - Economics, University of Melbourne

Chief investigator

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