By | AMY EDMONDSON | TOMAS CHAMORRO-PREMUZIC | www.fastcompany.com
Most of us have worked with (and at times for) people who are not as good as they think they are—the very definition of arrogant. There’s no shortage of arrogant bosses in the world. This reality can be explained by three major research findings:
- Humans have a general tendency to overestimate their talents and bosses are (still) predominantly human (although we hear that AI bosses are imminent). Sometimes called the Lake Woebegone effect, most people overestimate their own skills across a variety of domains.
- As observers, we are prone to mistaking confidence for competence, which explains why people who appear assertive, overconfident, and even arrogant, can be mistaken for especially talented individuals, and thus selected for leadership roles (in both public and private sector organizations).
- The more deluded people are about their own skills and talents, the easier it is for them to fool others into thinking they are more capable than they are actually.
These findings explain why arrogant bosses are far more common than realistic, humble bosses. Yet, management books and articles keep celebrating the idea of humble leaders.
Is this wishful thinking?
No. Our desire to work for people who are not unjustifiably pleased with themselves, and not unaware of their limitations, is rational. When arrogant people are in charge, they tend to disengage, alienate, and diminish others. Their teams experience a lack of psychological safety, their performance suffers, and their organizations (or nations) pay a high price. Considerable research demonstrates that humility is rational and constructive.