Monday, December 21, 2015

We Like Leaders Who Underrate Themselves

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link:

Jack ZengerJoseph Folkman
November 10, 2015

The Stanford Graduate School of Business asked the members of its Advisory Council which skills were most important for their MBA students to learn. The most frequent answer was self-awareness — possessing an accurate view of your skills, abilities, and shortcomings, as well as understanding how other people perceive your behavior.

Much of the research literature on emotional intelligence published in the last two decades reinforces the importance of self-awareness. For instance, academic researchers have found that people are happier and more well adjusted when their view of themselves accords with others’ views of them. And Korn-Ferry has even published research suggesting that a company’s financial performance is related to the level of self-awareness of the firm’s leadership team.

But is self-awareness always a good thing? And how many managers really have it?


Our research on 360-degree assessments suggests that having a highly accurate view of your skills and abilities that is exactly in alignment with the perceptions others have about you does not always result in high ratings of your leadership.


Surprisingly, the most effective leaders did not have the highest level of self-awareness. Indeed, the more they underrated themselves, the more highly they were perceived as leaders. We assume this is caused by a combination of humility, high personal standards, and a continual striving to be better.


We also found that under-raters had more engaged employees:


Why is having an illusion of superiority (regardless of whether it is accurate) so damaging to both leadership effectiveness and morale? Is it because this leader conveys an attitude of arrogance or complacency? Or is it because this mindset eliminates the motivation for self-development? We suspect the reasons are many, subtle, and perhaps intertwined.

This suggests that our emphasis needs to shift away from merely giving people general self-awareness and toward an emphasis on helping leaders to see that nearly everyone is a combination of “aces and spaces.” An aura of humility is always superior. This is in contrast to believing you are as Mary Poppins claimed, “Practically Perfect in Every Way.” (Somehow, she was able to portray this sentiment and to still be beloved… perhaps because she was a fictional character.)

Theoretically, both overrating yourself and underrating yourself are a kind of blindness. But as the data above shows, they bring extremely different results.


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