How to Keep Your Job When Working with an Overconfident Leader

“Take care — overconfidence can sabotage working relationships irrevocably.” Jeannette Seibly

A new customer gave Allison’s company a similar project to what she had worked on with her former employer. She put together the plan and excitedly shared her knowledge with her boss, Stan. But Stan had his own ideas of what to do and how to proceed. While Stan allowed Allison to offer her plan first, he didn’t listen and scrutinized each point. So, even though Allison was well-prepared, she became inflexible that her plan was the right one. And the initial positive energy in the room deflated like a balloon losing air!

Finally, Stan said, “While this plan may have worked in your former company, we’re not them. So you need to do it my way.”

Not surprisingly, the customer was unhappy with Stan’s way. When Allison attempted to enlist several executives to help turn around the results, they refused. They cited a lack of time. But the truth was, they lacked the confidence to have the needed conversations with Stan and wanted to keep their jobs. He was known to overreact to anyone challenging his ideas on how to get things done. They did, however, recommend to Allison that she leave the company before being fired. (Side Note: The customer terminated the contract and hired Allison’s former employer to get the project done in a way that worked for them!)

This story demonstrates what happens when two overconfident people have to work with one another … disastrous results.

When egos interact with egos, no one is listening. Each person is attempting to outtalk the other and are inflexible to consider alternatives. The project or program is destined to fail, while the customer loses money and time, and at least one person will lose their job or be sidelined until finding another job.

So, how do you keep your job when working with an overconfident leader? First, check your ego at the door. Second … keep reading!

3 Keys to Work with an Overconfident Leader and Keep Your Job

Stay aware and mindful in conversations. Listen up when an overconfident leader shares a decision s/he is making or is about to make. It will impact you, your project, team, and budget, either directly or indirectly. Expand the leader’s opinions by asking open-ended questions for clarification rather than debating their decision. (I’ve coached lots of people who challenged the leader’s opinions. The results? Some were fired, and many were about to be and had no idea their overconfidence got in the way.)

Stand up and speak up. When the leader is overconfident, you will question your own point of view. (Harvard Business Review) Don’t let this deter you from being assertive and sharing facts. But(!) … diplomacy is crucial! (It’s an essential skill to learn!) Remember, while you may be right, overconfident leaders will ignore you when their ego feels threatened. The outcome can impact your future projects, results, budgets, resources … and career.

Avoid confrontation if the leader’s idea or assertion does not impact you. Choose which issues to pursue. If you confront every issue, the overconfident leader will stop listening to you. (And so will everyone else!) Instead, focus on significant issues that will impact you from a win-win-win perspective.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2019-2022 All Rights Reserved

Jeannette Seibly is The Leadership Results Coach. She has been an award-winning international executive and family business management consultant, keynote speaker, and author for over 29 years. Her focus is to guide leaders to make a positive difference. Feel stuck moving your team forward? Want straightforward counsel on how to do it? Let’s chat! Contact Jeannette for a confidential conversation.

A note from Jeannette about working with an overconfident leader: First, set aside your ego! Second, be mindful, diplomatic, and ask questions to keep the conversation going. While it is a dance, the steps don’t need to be complicated. So, what challenge is on your plate to address this week? Need someone to listen? Let’s Chat!

Self-confidence takes practice before you can master it (like all inner growth). What are the essential steps to achieve it sooner rather than later? It requires focused action! Grab the 9 tips needed to develop the self-confidence you’ve always wanted (FREE).

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