In Garrison Keillor’s fictional community of Lake Wobegon, “the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”
As it turns out, this depiction is not limited to Lake Wobegon. One of the most documented findings in psychology is the average person’s ability to believe extremely flattering things about him or herself. We generally think that we possess a host of desirable traits and that we’re free of the most unattractive ones.
And this is particularly true of high-achievers who deem themselves to be more intelligent, more fair-minded and even better drivers than others. What about you? Do you:
- Overestimate your contribution to successful project?
- Exaggerate your team’s impact on company performance and profitability?
- Have a high opinion of your professional skills and standing in relation to your peers?
The fact that successful people tend to be a bit delusional isn’t all bad. Our belief in our wonderfulness gives us confidence. Even though we are not as good as we think we are, this confidence actually helps us be better than we would become if we did not believe in ourselves.
Here’s the Catch:
While confidence and a fair view of one’s capabilities and strengths are essential, over-confidence and an elevated sense of worth can to lead to ineffective relationships, poor decision making and ultimate failure in our leadership and our business. When we focus on proving, justifying or defending ourselves, we cut ourselves off from opportunities to understand others’ perspectives, get more accurate information and tap into the best solutions.
In other words, according to the great executive coach Marshall Goldsmith, the same beliefs that helped us get to here – our current level of success, can inhibit us from making the changes needed to get to there – the next level that we have the potential to reach.
Less Confidence, More Leadership Success
In the Harvard Business Review article, “Less-Confident People Are More Successful” , Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic asserts that a moderately low level of self-confidence is more likely to make you successful. Don’t confuse this with a very low degree of self-confidence. Excessive fear, anxiety and stress will inhibit performance, impede decision-making and undermine interpersonal relationships.
If you’re serious about becoming a strong leader, lowering your self-confidence can serve as a strong ally. Yes, this may seem counter-intuitive, but it works! Here’s why:
- It motivates you to work harder and prepare more effectively
- It makes you pay attention to negative feedback and be self-critical.
- It reduces your chances of coming across as arrogant or sell-deluded.
Management Success Tip:
Get in the habit of getting feedback – ask key people in your life how you can improve. Recruit them in helping you get from where you are (which can be a pretty great place) to where you want to be (which can be even better). Your first inclination when people point out areas for improvement may well be to believe that they are ‘wrong’ or ‘confused’. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Be open to the fact that they may well be right and you may well be the one who is confused.
Do you want to develop your Management Smarts?