Decision Making TypesWe all make decisions in different ways. This third installment of our three-part series on Decision Making (See here for Part 1, and here for Part 2) will help you determine the type of decision maker you are and includes a McKinsey survey you can take yourself.

There’s no right or wrong way to make decisions, but there are individual differences in ways we make decisions. And each individual difference comes with its very own biases. A cluster analysis of 5,000 individuals, organized by Dan Lovallo, professor of business strategy and Olivier Sibony, director at McKinsey & Co., shows that there are five different decision-maker types.

You can take McKinsey’s survey to find out what decision-making biases you are likely to make. The survey asks a series of questions to measure your individual preferences between:

  • storytelling vs. facts
  • gathering information narrowly vs. widely
  • action vs. caution
  • continuity vs. change
  • belief that corporate interests vs. personal interests prevail
  • ad hoc vs. process

On the last page, the survey will give you a score on each of:

  • Pattern Recognition
  • Action-Orientation
  • Stability
  • Social Harmony
  • Self-Interest
  • Use of Process

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Since it’s still in the research phase, the survey stops short of telling you which one of the five styles you are, but you can get an idea from your individual scores on the six dimensions above and the descriptions below.


High risk of Action-Oriented Bias – 14% of the population

  • HIGH Action-Orientation
  • LOW Stability
  • LOW use of Process

The visionary leads transformation and has an ability to maintain morale during times of great change. The visionary may rush through decisions and head in the wrong direction.

Advice for Visionaries: seek multiple perspectives, encourage people to disagree with you.


High risk of Stability Bias – 22% of the population

  • HIGH Stability
  • HIGH use of Process

The guardian is a fair leader who embodies the values of the organization. Decisions are made carefully and action is always planned. The guardian can be oblivious to a need for change.

Advice for Guardians: ask outsiders to weigh in on your industry and keep you updated about major shifts and trends.


High risk of Pattern-Recognition and Self-Interest Bias –12% of the population

  • HIGH Pattern-Recognition
  • HIGH Self-Interest

The motivator is a charismatic leader with an ability to build loyal followers. The motivator may get caught up in their own hype and ignore red flags.

Advice for Motivators: create processes that will deliver facts on an ongoing basis, seek a devil’s advocate-type that will be honest about the harsh realities.


Balanced, low risk of biases – 25% of the population

  • LOW on Action-Orientation
  • AVERAGE on others

The flexible leader is adaptable and open-minded and wants to know everyone’s opinion—no matter their place in the hierarchy. Their openness and fact gathering can go on and on, leading to overanalyzing and inaction.

Advice for Flexibles: create a process for simple and routine decisions, delegate some decision-making responsibility to others, set deadlines for decision-making.


Balanced, low risk of biases – 27% of the population

  • HIGH on Action-Orientation
  • AVERAGE on others

The catalyst really excels at group decision-making and implementing ideas. They are able to lead almost everything very well, perhaps leading to mediocrity—they always get it right, but they rarely hit it big.

Advice for Catalysts: be on the lookout for opportunities that may benefit from a different style and approach, ask others to offer a fresh perspective and make recommendations.

Read More: Choices & Decisions Making