Leadership Agenda: How CEOs mess up

I love to ask the chief executives I'm interviewing for Leadership Agenda about common mistakes that their peers make. Here's a response from Stephen Tang, chief executive of the University City Science Center. Tang used to lead for-profit businesses, so he's had plenty of opportunity to meet top executives.

"The presumption of knowledge is a real danger," said Tang.  "It's presuming that you know something. It’s over-confidence, it’s arrogance, whatever you call it. It’s not recognizing the subtle differences in situations," he said. 

"I’m a big fan that a lot of decision making is about pattern recognition," he said. "So,  a lot of what we do as human beings is see patterns. But some of us see the pattern in a little bit different detail than others do. I think where most CEOs fall into traps is that they assume [a new situation resembles a pattern] they have seen in the past when it is actually something far different. I think that CEOs have been doomed by that faulty pattern recognition."

Tomorrow: The difference between for-profit and nonprofit leadership.