The title of Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s book “Confidence: Overcoming Low Esteem” has an interesting twist. Some lack of confidence is a good thing because it keeps you open to learning and causes you to prepare. It flies in the face of the concept of it being important to be a confident leader.
Our society does tend to see confident people as more competent, even though the correlation is not very high. The person who is seen as confident in a job interview is more likely to get the offer.
When doing self-assessment, most people would see others as being overconfident and themselves as just being confident. An article by Sydney Finkelstein in the Wall Street Journal suggests asking four questions to see if you are over-confident:
- How much time do I really spend listening?
- Do I originate most of the ideas?
- Do I often feel like I’m the smartest person in the room?
- Do I think of myself as indispensable to my business’s success?
Most people are not as good at listening as they think they are. Smart and impatient people often do not want to take the time to fully listen. If someone speaks slowly or is more detailed in their approach, chances are the overconfident person will think they know where the person is going. They often are correct, but the 20% of the time they guess wrong is often not forgiven by others. “Arrogant” is a common label.
The negative answers to the other questions tend to reinforce the label of “arrogant” and it is likely justified. School systems’ implied rule is that the smartest person wins. It does not work when leading a team unless the leader wants to do all the work for the team.
People perform better when they feel needed and valued. There is a natural desire to do work that is worthwhile. An overconfident leader takes away that incentive.
Realistic confidence is worthwhile and instills confidence in the followers.