Post # 949

Why Many Leaders Are Unknowingly Delusional

I came across an extensive study on leadership effectiveness conducted by Stanford University’s School of Business which concluded that about 15% of one’s success in leading organizations comes from technical skills and knowledge, while 85% comes from the ability to CONNECT WITH PEOPLE and engender trust and mutual understanding. The problem however lies not in this remarkable data, but with those who think they already have what it takes!

The real issue lies in delusional thinking about our people-handling competence. 

Reality likely belies your self-assessment. Over 96% of leaders today believe they have “above average” people skills. This is a statistical improbability. It is what psychologists call motivated reasoning, which means that once we decide something is true (for whatever reason) we make up reasons for believing it to be true. Most of us believe we are smarter, fairer, more considerate, more dependable and more creative than average. But we cannot all be “above average.” 

This is not behavioral; it is neurological – it is hard-wired into the brains of normal, healthy people like you and me.  

Studies confirm that 75% of North American leaders believe they are “BETTER” than others in their industry - thus, 90% of physicians, investment bankers, AND lawyers (specialists who cannot afford to second-guess their decisions) rate themselves in the top 10% of their field, and even 94% of university professors say they are above average teachers. Simply put, successful people are incredibly delusional about their skills and, as Andy Grove (the former Chair of Intel) once advised, “Success breeds complacency and complacency breeds failure.”

The most important leadership skill is the ability to genuinely listen to people. Most of us assume we do this quite naturally. THINK AGAIN. 

Research confirms that the listening proficiency level of over 95% of people tested falls between 15 and 29%. (And our tendency to think we are good at multi-tasking has likely dramatically reduced those percentages.) Listening is a skill. It can be learned and therefore improved. Unless, like others, you assume you are “above average” and don’t require such training . . . a choice that may be ego gratifying but also delusional!

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