Overconfident Leadership

Is your organisation suffering from ‘overconfident leadership’?

No one said it was going to be easy. Leadership can be a cold and lonely place and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a leader, there are always ways to make being at the top easier. We learn from our experiences and therefore we are all guilty of picking up habits. The real question is how nasty those habits are. If you could wave a magic wand and go back to the first time you met your team, or changed departments, what would you have done differently?

First impressions it would seem are lasting, and you might be surprised to find what a good team are looking for from their leader. Ask most managers, particularly more senior managers, what they would like to project during a first encounter and more often than not you’ll hear the word confidence. The idea of confidence does sound kind of important, but there’s a danger. If you over compensate, even a little, into overconfidence, then you could actually be setting yourself up for a fall.

So what is the best way to meet your team or your new staff? Well a little confidence is healthy, but modesty is also an attractive trait and one which your team are more likely to buy. By presenting an untouchable and infallible persona you may be able to convince some of the team you are the great leader, but for others you will just become a red rag to their bull and the second you slip up you’re likely to be gored.

A better approach is to maintain a calm understated control, somewhere between confident and introvert. Modesty is also an attractive quality and can help build trust in your subordinates. You don’t need to pretend to be some iron hulk incapable of human error, it’s far easier to simply appear capable.

Spotting overconfidence.

Overconfident leadership can be detrimental to your business in many ways and the offending leader is often blind to the dangers caused by their own conceit. Do you recognise any of these nasty habits in yourself, your own boss or your colleagues?

  1. ‘The idea stifler’ – If you are the boss that thinks you are the smartest person in the room and you always know best, then you are probably a ‘stifler ‘of ideas and creativity. What’s the point of your team speaking up if their boss always has a better idea or a better answer? Great leaders encourage great ideas from their team and hire challenging people who are stronger and more capable in different areas than themselves. They want the best people on their teams and they want to develop them.
  2. ‘The crutch’ – If you are the boss the team depends upon for problem-solving, then you are probably under-using their capacity to think for themselves and succeed in their own right. Why go through the pain of working things out for themselves if they know the boss will always give them the answer? Great leaders want to help employees succeed independently and are willing to coach and mentor them instead of dictating all their decisions
  3. ‘The Intimidator’ – If you are the boss who likes to use fear to motivate your team, then you are almost certainly missing out on their feedback, ideas, opinions, loyalty and performance. Fear motivates. There is no doubt that people will comply if they are afraid of the consequences. Great leaders understand that fear achieves compliance, but empowerment and respect earns commitment. They never forget the impact they have on others and they constantly keep their minds and doors open to ideas and feedback.

There are some arguments that overconfident people are likely to achieve more and are perhaps more likely to get promoted than their colleagues, but there is a danger that their overconfidence can automatically render them unsuitable and unequal to the challenges that face them. It is this grey area you have to avoid. As mentioned earlier, first impressions are hard to shake and if you end up tarred with the overconfidence brush, you might as well find another job, because you are unlikely to find the support you need if and when the storm sets in. So, next time you need to present yourself to a new team or department just remember when it comes to confidence, less really can be more.

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