It's ok to have a 'Tony Stark' at work as long as there's a 'Pepper Potts'
Washington, Feb 9 : A company may not have an Iron Man, but many do have a Tony Stark among them - a highly powerful, intensely-focused individual who often ignores risk in order to achieve his or her goals.
That's usually a good thing - as long as companies make sure to also hire a Pepper Potts to keep their powerful leaders grounded, according to new research co-authored by BYU business professor Katie Liljenquist.
"Organizations need to anticipate the tendency of their most powerful members to leap without looking," study co-author Liljenquist, a professor of organizational leadership at BYU's Marriott School of Management said.
"The remedy is to surround them with people who can see other angles, or can play a devil's advocate role to point out risk. Interestingly, it is the low-power members of the organization who are best equipped to do this," she said.
The study found that powerful people are less likely to see constraints in pursuing their goals. Meanwhile, their low-power counterparts are more aware of the risks around them.
Liljenquist said that the phenomenon mirrors the animal kingdom: Predators have evolved to have an extremely narrow eye focus for tracking prey, but this compromises their peripheral vision.
Meanwhile, prey animals sacrifice such visual focus for more sensitive peripheral vision that tracks movement and potential threats in the surrounding environment.
"In business settings you need both," Liljenquist said. "You need the people with that unfettered confidence and optimism and the willingness to take big risks, but you need those low-power individuals who say, 'Hey wait a second. Let's identify the pitfalls'."
Liljenquist said that failure to consider constraints can carry weighty repercussions - such as the housing market crises and bank failures of 2008 that caused the worst economic recession since the 1920s.
The study is published online in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.