Ever felt trapped under a leader's 'know-it-all' attitude?
Discover how unchecked overconfidence in Alpha Leaders can become a tyranny - and learn how to strike a balance for success.
What makes a leader successful? Is it their unwavering confidence, assertive demeanor, or natural dominance?
If you think “yes to all three,” you’re not alone. We often equate these qualities with the image of an Alpha Leader.
But let me share another side, a different story about the underbelly of “overconfidence.”
Like many of you, I’ve often taken risks that have led to victories and sometimes drove me to pitfalls.
I’ve seen how overconfidence can turn from a strength into a stumbling block for me and those around me.
According to research by Don A. Moore and Paul J. Healy, overconfidence can be broken down into three distinct dimensions:
Overestimation, Overplacement, and Overprecision.
Notice where you or someone you know falls into one of these categories.
OVERESTIMATION is the tendency to overestimate your abilities, performance, control, or chance of success. Overestimation is most likely to occur on hard tasks or when someone is not especially skilled. Driven by an illusion of control, they believe they have power and can fail to plan well, either overestimating the work, time it takes, costs, etc.
Example: I know I’ve worked with people like that. They had ambitious visions for what we could accomplish. However, overestimating the team’s capabilities led to demanding workloads and exhausting hours. This resulted in burnout and disengagement, with some even leaving the organization. High expectations can be a motivator, but unrealistic ones can be disastrous. Leaders must balance their ambitious vision with a realistic understanding of their team's capabilities.
OVERPLACEMENT refers to the belief that one is better than others. Overplacement is most often observed in simple tasks considered easy to accomplish.
Example: I remember a product manager from my tech days. He always put his knowledge and ideas above others', a classic case of overplacement. He was so self-assured that he would dismiss others' ideas and suggestions, creating a bottleneck in decision-making. This not only wasted time and resources but also demotivated the team. Leaders need to understand that they don't have a monopoly on good ideas and must create an environment that encourages innovation and collaboration.
OVERPRECISION is the excessive confidence that one knows the truth. This is often seen in studies where participants are asked about their belief that items are correct.
Example: Another case I recall involved a technical manager at a bank I once worked. She was obsessed with perfection to the point of being overprecise. She overlooked the hard work done by her team, focusing solely on the tiniest of flaws. Her overprecision stifled creativity and demotivated the team. Leaders take note: perfection is a myth. Focusing on minor imperfections can blind you to the broader picture of success.
Three simple ways to overcome these elements of overconfidence
Leaders should regularly seek feedback from their teams to identify tendencies towards overconfidence and actively work to address them.
This could be through:
Setting more realistic targets (to counter overestimation)
Encouraging a culture of open dialogue and collaborative decision-making (to counter overplacement)
Recognizing and celebrating achievements rather than focusing solely on flaws (to counter overprecision).
In essence, remember that confidence can inspire, and overconfidence can backfire.
If you're in a leadership role, check your overconfidence at the door, and you'll pave the way for success.
Stay confident, but also stay humble.
You're an Alpha Leader - brilliant, driven, formidable. But what about the emotional landscape of leadership? It can sometimes strain relationships and team dynamics.
Here is where I come in.
Together, we'll shape you into an Empathic Alpha Leader, where strength meets understanding, and decisiveness pairs with empathy.
Start your journey to empathic leadership today.