Today, I read an interesting article on overconfidence. The author, Jessie States, references studies on the connection between overconfidence and the high social status it brings. He appears to be concerned about people’s confidence which leads them to believe, “they are more physically talented, socially adept and skilled at their jobs than they actually are,” which is unsubstantiated by actual skills and abilities.
I don’t disagree that most people feel they are above average, (which is impossible, statistically speaking).
However, I do strongly believe that 95% of people never come anywhere near their potential for greatness. And often, it’s our heads that get in the way. Not necessarily our intelligence, but our willingness to settle for less, not push ourselves and stay in our comfort zone.
Belief in your ability to accomplish great things, and the corresponding desire to participate without fear is very valuable. The problem comes in when the overconfidence is not sincere, and is hiding fears about oneself, and leads to a feeling of entitlement instead of desire to work hard.
The overconfident person who truly has a positive self-image and a determination and persistence to work hard, will thrive in an environment where their performance is objectively measured, which is what can take that overconfidence and use it proactively to improve actual performance.
The author found that overconfident people who “believed they were better than others, even when they weren’t, were given a higher place in the social ladder.” They were well liked people, and not considered pompous. And, I’m not surprised. Don’t we want to be around people who think positively about themselves and others? I guess the “and others” part is the big difference. If that confidence translates to a confidence about people overall, and enables them to encourage greatness in others, that is an attractive trait.
What does this tell us about ourselves as leaders?
- If you have a confidence about the work you do, where you are headed and the bright future ahead, and share that vision, that is contagious and people will like to follow you.
- Confidence is a great thing if it leads you to continual development of yourself, personally and professionally, and especially if you provide the same opportunities for your team.
- There is incredible potential out there to be discovered in yourself and others, and if the confidence you possess can lead you to jump in and try things, with your eyes open, and develop your skills along the way, your team will benefit – and they’ll like working for you!
The author felt it would be difficult to determine how to “de-emphasiz[e] the natural tendency toward overconfidence,” but I say, let’s not squash it, let’s channel and coach it to create greatness!