Are Tall People Better Managers?

We all have biases; things that we believe are true, that drive our decisions and actions.

But those biases can be blind spots, so they may drive the wrong decisions and actions.

The worst thing about biases is that we don’t realise that we have them, they are part of who we are.  As the old adage goes:

A fish is the last to see water.

Let me give you an example

Do tall people make better managers?

Is there any link between height and management ability.  What do you think, yes or no?

I vote for the “no” camp, being taller is unlikely to:

  • Bestow intelligence
  • Instill strategic prowess
  • Make you more politically astute
  • Turn you into a whirlwind of innovation.

Nobody in their right mind would claim being taller makes you a better manager.

But taller people do better in business

Here are a couple of facts for you:

  • In the US the proportion of men over 6 feet tall is 15%
  • Of fortune 500 companies the proportion of CEO’s over 6 feet tall is 58%

So it is true, being tall makes you a better manager.

Or we are all duping ourselves?

Tall people are not just better managers

A study by Timothy Judge and Daniel Cable showed that an inch in height is worth on average $789 a year in salary.  So:

  • either being tall makes you a better lawyer, doctor, shopkeeper and undertaker
  • or the US and UK populations are biased to favour the tall

I’m jumping to the latter conclusion, how about you?

Biases, beliefs and assumptions are not so different

They are all hidden, and they are all capable of biting us.  We will never be without them, but trying to list them out before we start an improvement project wouldn’t be a bad thing to do.

It is very difficult to out smart an enemy that you can’t see.

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Image by Anders Adermark

Comments

  1. James,

    Great point… you need to know all of the facts before you can come to a solid, fair, clear conclusion.

    I always love the stories you tell to make the point. Excellent video, too.

    Annette :-)

  2. James,
    Couldn’t agree more. My time as a economic forecaster (previous life) taught me a very important lesson and that was the forecast is never wrong, it is only the assumptions that we make and the biases that we build into our thinking and models that are wrong. Therefore, always best to get them out in the open and up for scrutiny before progressing.

    Adrian

  3. James Lawther says:

    I couldn’t agree more Adrain, I heard a great quote the other day. There are two types of forecast, “lucky and wrong”. It is all about the assumptions

    James

  4. Hello James,

    What you share is what is so and as such I find myself in agreement with you. I also agree with you that I should seek to surface-disclose my biases before I make important decisions. The question is which practice would call attention to my biases?

    If I look into my experience I find that being biased in a particular situation, I was not able to see my biases. Put differently, in my default way of being-in-the-world, my biases were transparent to me. And I was as likely to spot them and list them as the fish would spot that it swims in water.

    It occurs to me that the way for my biases to be exposed is for me to put myself in a position where the people around me disclose and confront me with my biases. And other matters, that I had overlooked simply because I didn’t know that I didn’t know of these other matters. What does it take for me to put this practice into place? Humility and openness on my part? And willingness-courage in the part of those who around me. Looked at this way do you see the issue? The higher up a person is on the corporate ladder the less likely he/she is to be humble and open. And the less likely it is that the person around him are likely to be courageous enough to point out his biases and unknown unknowns. Isn’t that how the Bay of Pigs turned out? Or Blair leading us to Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.

    Maz

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