Is overconfidence defeating you?
Marshall Goldsmith’s research indicates 80% to 85% of successful executives rate themselves in the top 20% of their peer group. Additionally, 70% rate themselves in the top 10%. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out that about 60% rate themselves higher than they should.
Chances are you’re good but you’re not as good as you think.
Confident leaders magnify and maximize their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. That’s not all bad. You need confidence. Confidence enables you to face challenges, work through obstacles, and view defeats as momentary. However, the dark side of confidence is overconfidence and there’s a thin line between the two.
You may be overconfident if:
- You believe you’re the smartest person in the room.
- You haven’t been to training in months or years.
- You’re surprised when others don’t realize your greatness.
- You think the things you do are more important than the things others do.
- You jump into the spotlight and seldom share it.
- You seldom if ever change your mind.
- You don’t have a coach, mentor, or other trusted advisor.
- You don’t adequately consider or plan for failure.
- You believe your personality type is superior to others.
- You think you’re a performer but mostly you’re a talker.
- Bonus: You make excuses when a fault or failure is pointed out.
Do you have enough confidence to ask others if they’ve seen you act humbly? If you do, ask them to describe what you did and go do more of that.
When does confidence become overconfidence?
I can really appreciate this article. I have been humbled many times in my career. When your constantly being told how great you are at something. It’s hard not to let it go to your head. I really believe that, “Pride comes before the fall” It’s good to stay grounded and remember we are just as human as everyone else. It’s helped me be able to accept responsibility for my mistakes and enabled me to ensure my people get the spot light when warranted. Thanks for your time and great article.
Thank you for a good word. You encourage me.
One of the concerns I had with publishing this post is that people frequently need to be lifted. I hope in a strange way that being challenged does lift us.
Often times we forget that when we challenge ourselves and our people, that if done correctly, will will lift our ourselves and people to new heights. I think that sometimes we forget that motivation doesn’t always have to be soft and gentle. Everyone we mentor and lead has a different way to be lifted up. Our challenge as leaders is to discover for each of our people what it takes to motivate and inspire them.
Ouch! Consider me humbled just from reading this post!
Nicely said. For me, the question at the end is a kick in the pants.
For me, it’s mostly number 1. But this is being printed at put over my desk. Thanks, Dan.
You just smacked some people over the head with this article. Hopefully the people that need it are reading this blog!
At every level of leadership where I have worked I like to think that my position is less and less important. It’s not my level of importance on the ladder that matters, it’s what my section of the organization can accomplish. I look at it like this, most people who rise in power and influences see themselves at the top of a pyramid. This is wrong. The pyramid is actually reversed and expands upwards because the leader can influence so many more people and customers in the organization.
The more responsibility, the greater the burden on the leader to not “mess up”. The leader can set goals and have a vision but needs to understand they can and will do more harm than good if they think they are the best thing since sliced bread. Most aren’t.
Love the image of an upside down pyramid with the leader at the bottom. Speaks of servant-leadership.
Additionally, I think you nailed it by suggesting the higher “up” the less important you are. Of course, leaders are responsible and in the spot light. However, in my opinion, leaders are in the spotlight so they can shine it on others.
Best to you,
I love rewarding and giving praise to my team. They are great! I’ve been so lucky to work with some fantastic people along the way.
I like the underlying theme of all your points Dan — continuous learning defeats overconfidence and develops confident humility.
Fits in with my definition for sure of humility in leaders:
And as usual you communicate your points with effective brevity.
Awesome! Thanks for leaving a link that adds value.
Kate is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. You can read her bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/kate-nasser
Don’t know if it defeats overconfidence Kate, definitely should manage or contain it though! 🙂
Great post Dan! I love the check list. Saw some things I can definitely work on. Your blog has helped me several times in the last few month, particularly when it comes to listening. Your blogs on listening, and some of the carry over themes have been a great help to me. Keep up the good work.
Your comments lift me. Thank you so much.
I know you thrive on inspiring others. You talk it and walk it.
Hum, wonder how an overconfident leader becomes humble? For me, I have never seen it happen.
Great question. I wonder if the idea that pain motivates change. Perhaps a profound failure or intervention? Wow that’s scary.
It’s raining and cold in OR. I bet its sunny where you are 🙂
Jim is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/james-leemann
Sunny and clear in my part of OR, Dan!
If profound failure or interventions don’t motivate change, check for pulse….
checking pulse… bubbump bubbump .. yup
Love it! A great reminder for anyone.
I think of confidence as a scale – on one end is a complete lack of confidence (not good); on the other end is over-confident narcissism (also not good) – the goal is to live in the effective part of the middle between the two.
Thanks for jumping in and sharing your insights.
I don’t know about you but I find part of the equation also includes the circumstances.
Love the balance idea Tim! Bravo.
Great article! However – wasn’t it confidence that brought these people up where they are right now? Yes, it does go into your head, but it also lets you go and get something above your head, isn’t it?
Yes, I believe confidence is an essential component of leadership. I think the balance may be expressed by Robert Sutton who suggests we should be confident but we should also doubt ourselves.
Thanks for joining in,
Great post Dan. When does confidence become overconfidence? As you rightly pointed out, being a leader does not imply that you are the smartest guy in the room. As a leader, you are in that position for a purpose – to engage your followers to a noble cause to which they are committed and help create long term value through your strengths. This normally calls for strong collaboration skills with your followers, working together as a team to achieve your stated goals. However, most of the time leaders lose it when they forget their purpose and call all the shots without consulting other team members. As human beings too, leaders have to learn to listen too. The moment they close their ears to outside suggestions and advice, to me really implies overconfidence.
Love your insight, “engage your followers to a noble cause.” Nicely said.
I always enjoy seeing that you’ve joined the conversation.
Great article again Dan. I can relate to your concerns about people needing to be lifted but when it comes to overconfidence a kick in the pants is needed in order to break through that attitude that “learning and development is for everyone else and not needed by me.”
Learning happens when there is awareness, acceptance and then action. Your checklist effectively kick starts that awareness.
Thanks for adding that learning includes an awareness of need. So true.
Thanks for joining in and success to you and your business.
Do you think I’m humble?
Did you hear me mumble?
You think I’m over-what!
Of course I didn’t stumble upon my wonderful life
I’m great, sharp like a knife.
And let me, no, let me tell you mate…
What, ask Dan the Leadership-Freak-Man?
He’s knows his humble pie from his strawberry jam.
But no-one understands me.
I don’t listen? You don’t say!
I don’t notice? No way!
I don’t stop? But, why!
If only this mirror spoke the truth.
If only the observer listened like a sleuth.
Then I could humbly say
Have a nice day.
And quietly go along my way.
Humbly, confidently, as true leaders do.
Written with a sarcasm I truly enjoy.
You can check out Richard’s bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/richard-croad. He’s a long time friend of Leadership Freak.
Hi Dan, me sarcastic! my bio is desevredly out of date – as I haven’t contributed much lately. Now in Antwerp,Belgium, have attachedmy less serious blog to this signitature.
Thanks for all your wisdom and inspiration – and there is no sarcasm in that!
Croad’s ode,…cadently confident, iambic leadership at its best!
I’m running for my dictionary again… oh Doc 🙂
Great article Dan !! A true eye opener. At some point it looks like a mirror to me. Thanks for holding me for a moment to sit back and analyse self attitude.
Trust it help upgrading attitude. though very tough 🙂
Thanks for sharing a good word and a bit of your own story. Very helpful.
Confidence + Ego= Overconfidence. At the same time Confidence+ self Esteem =Humility.
This is formula that I believe. I also hope that approach makes all the difference. If you think that everyone should follow, agree or appreciate you, then you are suffering from ego and ignorance. Confidence is positive and overconfidence is negative because one motivates other de motivates.
when a person is confience he has open minded to learn new things and acceptance power is also open. On the other hand, person with overconfidence has almost closed option because of his wrong perception of the things. He believes that he knows more than anybody else. The driver of overconfidence is lack of exposure, knowledge and incompetency. Self experience and varied exposure make person confident. The person with lot of support and less experience usually may develop self satisfying belief that he knows more than any one. And unfortunately this comes from his incompetencies and he thinks his ignorance as ego and arrogance.
Ka Pow! Love this, “If you think that everyone should follow, agree or appreciate you, then you are suffering from ego and ignorance.”
Another very clear way to evaluate if we’ve crossed the line.
All the best,
Ajay is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read is bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
There is a difference between the kind of confidence that helps a leader proceed and helps him or her avoid paralyzing fears of failure – the kind of confidence that comes from having done adequate ground work and preparation, and having gained experience that informs choices. It becomes dangerous overconfidence when that leader begins assuming that the approaches that worked in the past will continue working, even in the face of new information about a situation that has changed.
I once had an employee who was asking for more money. She was a very competent employee and someone I enjoyed working with. However, at one point in the conversation she started crying and saying how “hard” she had worked. Since we didn’t have an evaluation system (or a good one, at any rate) in place at the time, I fully see (especially in retrospect) why she perceived her work production as “working hard”. But I think a true measurement of her productivity would have shown that she was not producing a quantity and quality of work that was “off the charts” phenomenal and worthy of that kind of emotion. But I personally, have felt similar to her, in the absence of a measurable evaluation system – the emotional strains of dealing with various difficult operational issues have felt “hard” and I felt like doing precisely what my employee had done – crying looking for someone to validate how “hard” I had worked. Maybe for her and for me, our feelings had to do with number 4, thinking our work was “more important” than the others.
Finding a good third party to help us get perspective is, I agree, a good idea!
You bring up a point that was totally OFF my radar but is so obviously true.
A healthy, valid evaluation helps us get a good look at ourselves. Wow, very nicely done.
Paula is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read her bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/paula-kiger
When we talk more than we listen are we overconfident or just not picking our words well?
Thanks for the article . . . and a great challenge for all. Since reading this from Goldsmith, I’ve taken to doing informal surveys in the training sessions I lead. Not only do the majority of executives rate themselves in the top tier, but also lower level staff – even those who are “sent” to the training because a manager or exec thought they needed improvement. When they see a roomful of hands up self-rating as “top performers” in the organization, it helps break through some of their resistance to learning and change.
“2. You haven’t been to training in months or years.”
This one really struck me the most, most especially with regard to leaders that others really rely on to be up to date, well experienced and well trained/educated.
“Do you have enough confidence to ask others if they’ve seen you act humbly? If you do, ask them to describe what you did and go do more of that.” I also thought this was a most excellent challenge.
Well, I’d have to hold my hand up to being guilty of at least one or two of those overconfidence markers at some point, (but I won’t say which one(s). I have a saying that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Bizarrely, I coined this phrase whilst observing a former mentor 🙂 I think this post links well with another one of yours – “In praise of self doubt” http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/ Thankfully, I’m also guilty there and it helps to keep me on the right side of the fine line. Thanks for another thought-provoking post.
Dan, given this post, what are your thoughts on Starbucks and their new logo refusing to listen to the market (their customers)? Is that Hubris or what?
Great piece – very thought provoking. Ironically, if one feels that you score well on most then you are probably overconfident!!