Confidence is good. People want to follow a confident leader. They want to follow someone who believes in what they are doing and where they are going. But there is a line that can be crossed where confidence turns into overconfidence. It is where a strength becomes a weakness, where an asset becomes a liability.
Overconfidence can find its way into any leader’s mind. We are all susceptible. And when this happens, the leader will, often unknowingly, find himself or herself in a potentially destructive situation. The leader will find himself or herself in a place where ignorance and excessive risk exist. And the result can be devastating.
Consider these six dangers of an overconfident leader:
1. Overconfident leaders tend to dismiss differing opinions, even from trusted sources.
Overconfident leaders assume that they always know best. And they assume that those with differing opinions are somehow less experienced, less knowledgeable, or less understanding, or less of a visionary. Even when valid, differing opinions are presented from trusted sources, they will not give these opinions much attention.
2. Overconfident leaders tend to minimize negative indicators.
Overconfident leaders are experts at making significant negative indicators seem totally insignificant. They are quick to develop a rationale as to why such an indicator may be significant for everyone else but somehow does not apply to themselves.
3. Overconfident leaders tend to take excessive risks.
I like risk-takers. But all risks are not created equal. The ego of the overconfident leader will lead him or her to take risks that have very little chance of succeeding and contain substantial negative ramifications for failure.
4. Overconfident leaders often assume that past success will mean future success.
Overconfidence often arises from past successes and an assumption that success will now easily continue. Because they believe success will come easily, they may approach the next challenge with less intensity and focus. And success becomes more difficult to achieve.
5. Overconfident leaders are really good at leading people to make the wrong decision.
The certainty that overconfident leader project will be convincing to many. Even if the decision is wrong, many will follow the overconfident leader because of his or her sureness.
6. Overconfident leaders rarely see themselves as overconfident.
It is difficult to convince an overconfident leader that he or she is truly overconfident. Sometimes, it is not until they fail until the overconfident leader realizes his or her limitations.
Leaders should project some level of confidence, but we all must be careful not to cross over into the realm of overconfidence. Listen to opposing opinions; consider negative indicators; lead with humility. These are markers of a confident, but not overconfident, leader.