Overconfidence is the Top Reason Leaders Sabotage Their Results


Optimism is important during this COVID-19 crisis. But, overconfidence that you won’t get the virus or the economy won’t impact you will sabotage your results as a leader.

While confidence is important, being too confident usually means you are not paying attention to the details. It’s “in the details” that results will be successful or fail.

A new leader believed he was ready to lead a $25M project, even though he had never run a $1M project before. He sold himself by making bold promises and embellishing his skills. 60 days later he was fired and wanted to know why. He hired a coach who used a scientifically validated job fit assessment. The results showed he had leadership potential, but, he lacked the experience to manage a diverse team. During the conversation with his coach, he found why he was fired. He hadn’t built trust with his team and believed he couldn’t fail. He disregarded his team’s objections. In turn, the team disregarded everything he said. They believed he was, “too full of himself.” In other words, his overconfidence failed to build a team to achieve dynamic results.

This overconfidence dynamic happens when leaders feel superior and fail to understand that this mindset will sabotage their results. It can also be a career derailer.

How to Recognize When You Are Overconfident

Awareness of your mindset is important. At times, everyone has been or will be overconfident in their life and career. Learn to recognize and be aware of words or actions that signal you’re being overconfident (e.g., “I’ve got this handled!” “I never fail!”)  If you don’t, this mindset will sabotage you.

Be honest about your skills. Take the time to conduct an accurate assessment of yourself. Use a scientifically validated job fit assessment that goes beyond how you want to be seen. Objective results are critical will provide insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your thinking style, core behaviors, and occupational interests. These blind spots will make or break your results as a leader.

Stop comparing yourself with others. Too often, when you see someone make a mistake, you may become arrogant and believe you would never make a similar mistake. That is until you do, then, you have a myriad of excuses! This is one important example of what being overconfident and lacking empathy looks like. Both of these traits are required for successful leadership.

Test your assumptions before declaring your decisions. Too often we make important judgments and decisions based on fragments of information. We fail to objectively deep dive into the pros and cons, instead we rely on how we feel or our interpretation of the data. Use your network to test your assumptions. 90% of the world’s information is in people’s heads, not the internet!  Questions to get answered: Why did it work for that company? What are the differences between their company and mine? What is “insider” information? This kind of analysis will help you make confident and better decisions.

Listen to others’ feedback and concerns. For some, it is easier to only focus on the positives. But, a healthy skepticism will save your career and the financial impact of a bad decision. Learn to listen to what you don’t want to hear. All feedback is valuable.

Recognize when it’s the right time. While many ideas may be viable with modifications, it may not be the right time or place to put them into action.  Avoid using circular logic to push through ideas before the right time.

How to Work with Overconfident Leaders

Stay aware and mindful in conversations. Listen up when your leader is sharing a decision s/he is making or about to make. It will impact you, your project, team, and budget, either directly or indirectly. Ask open-ended questions for clarification rather than debating the leader’s decision.

Stand up and speak up. While it’s important to be assertive in these situations, diplomacy is critical. Remember, while you may be right, overconfident leaders will ignore you if their ego feels threatened. This can impact future results too.

If the leader’s idea or assertion does not impact you, avoid confrontation. Choose which issues to pursue. If you confront every issue, you will not be heard. Instead, address major issues from a win-win perspective.

Overconfidence can be a leader’s downfall. Learn from the above strategies on how to recognize them and achieve dynamic results.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2019-2020

Jeannette Seibly is an award-winning dynamic results coach and keynote speaker. For the past 27 years, she has guided the creation of leaders to achieve dynamic results.  1st Quarter is done. Did you hit your goals? If you did, congrats! Remember, what you do during Q2 will impact Q3 and beyond. Contact Jeannette today for straight talk with dynamic results. Don’t forget to listen to her podcasts on Anchor.FM or YouTube.com.

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