Around the world we have a disproportionate number of people who think they are better than they are. I am continually amazed at how overconfidence permeates political and popular culture, especially here in America, and dominates nearly every global communication medium.
Confidence has long been celebrated and exalted globally as a virtue and one that leaders should strive to embody. Long synonymous with competence, confidence has rarely ever been questioned as it is a powerful influencer that resonates across cultures around the world. However overconfidence, which few like to talk about, has a dark side and I was reminded of this when I recently watched Dr. Tomas Chamarro-Premuzic's brief (just over five minutes) and brilliant TED@NYC talk on The Power of Negative Thinking. "Overconfidence," Dr. Chamarro outlines, "is one of the most pervasive biases in human thought." He continues to share that there are two basic benefits one derives from exuding confidence:
1. Feels good to think you're great
2. Can help you fool other people
The Dark Side of Overconfidence
It stands to reason that as Dr. Chamarro argues that overconfidence can oftentimes lead to poor decision-making as well as addictive behaviors as we become immersed in our delusions of grandeur. The key then in redirecting this behavior is to underscore the benefits of lacking confidence.
Adaptational Benefits of Lack of Confidence
- Threat Detection Signal, your gut, that tells you that you shouldn't be doing something is heightened
- When one is unsure you typically work harder, prepare longer, and ultimately making better decisions
My takeaway is that we should stop celebrating the narcissists and encourage those virtues of past generations which seem buried under a mountain of selfies -- humility, modesty and discretion. Those virtues after all are the ones that truly unlock influence and seed leadership qualities that are enduring.