In business psychology, the prevailing wisdom has assumed that a high degree of self-confidence leads to promotions and leadership success. I recently ran across a blog post that disputes this assumption. (Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Business psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic writes that new studies show that Less-Confident People Are More Successful (Harvard Business Review blog, July 2012).
According to this blog post, 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. A very low sense of confidence leads to excessive fear, anxiety and stress and will inhibit performance, impede decision-making and undermine interpersonal relationships.
But low-enough self-confidence can work in your favor because it:
- Makes you pay attention to negative feedback and be self-critical. This means you’re open to learning and improving. Most of us tend to listen to feedback and ignore the negative in favor of the positive. If you want to overcome deficits, you must listen to both positive and negative comments.
- Motivates you to work harder and prepare more effectively. If you really want to achieve leadership success, you will do whatever it takes to bridge the gap between the status quo and your professional goals
- Reduces your chances of coming across as arrogant or delusional. People with lower levels of self-confidence are more likely to admit their mistakes instead of blaming others — and they rarely take credit for others’ accomplishments.
If you’re serious about becoming a strong leader, lower self-confidence can serve as a strong ally, inspiring you to work hard, conquer limitations and, put simply, avoid being a jerk.
In the work I do with executives, I’ve found that most come across as very self-confident. The news that this can inhibit their executive presence comes as a shock. Some of my clients fear coming across as vulnerable to others with whom they compete for promotions.
And yet, when their confidence is dialed down a bit, they find there’s more room to ask questions, learn from others, and they actually find it easier to build better connections with the people who matter.
Consider this: when you’re courageous enough to question your own behavior and motives, you extend the privilege to others. We model the behaviors we wish to see in others. That is truly a strong leadership quality.
Avoiding blame and judgment opens the door to cooperation and productivity.
Here are a few things I would suggest to help yourself and your staff:
- Read Arbinger’s Leadership and Self-Deception.
- Work with an executive coach to pinpoint areas of self-deception.
- Ask yourself, “What’s my part in any given problem?”
- Identify ways to set aside your ego and achieve optimum results.
If you’ve found this helpful, let me know. I can be reached here or at 704-827-4474. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with these issues.