Confidence: How Much Is Too Much?

Confidence: How Much Is Too Much?

How much confidence should I project to be an effective leader? This is a question I often get when coaching CEOs and other leaders. To help people get a handle on this question, I cite a study in which leaders were asked to rate how many of their decisions each day were correct. They were also asked to evaluate their level of confidence. Employees were then asked to assess the effectiveness of these leaders.

Here’s what the study revealed: Leaders who were confident but relatively uncertain were viewed as better managers, more likely to foster creative flow and encourage independent thinking. Those who were confident and certain about the “rightness” of their decisions were viewed as authoritarian and inflexible.

When you think about it, this conclusion isn’t too surprising. When people work for leaders who are confident but uncertain, they feel more relaxed, more expressive, and more innovative. When you work for a boss who is confident and certain, you’re left feeling that your own contributions aren’t as important. You tend to feel second-guessed. Before you know it, most of your energy is devoted to managing your boss’s reactions rather than to finding better ways of doing things. Too much certainty snuffs out the spark.

To break this cycle, leaders should openly admit their uncertainty. They should admit what they don’t know, say they’re not sure about the answer, and state openly that they look to others to find solutions. Great leaders go one step further. They continually poke at their own assumptions and expose their “facts” as probabilities – not certainties. They encourage people to search for better solutions.

Learn more in my new book, The Leadership Equation: 10 Practices That Build Trust, Spark Innovation, and Create High-Performing Organizations.

LRI’s expert consultants can provide coaching to help you or others in your organization develop leadership skills. Please call us for a free consultation at 800-598-7662 or email your inquiry.

Eric Douglas

Eric Douglas is the senior partner and founder of Leading Resources Inc., a consulting firm that focuses on developing high-performing organizations. For more than 20 years, Eric has successfully helped a wide array of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporations achieve breakthroughs in performance. His new book The Leadership Equation helps leaders achieve strategic clarity, manage change effectively, and build a leadership culture.

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