Who Is that Leader in the Mirror?

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall," asked the Queen in Snow White, "who is the fairest of them all?"
Things got sticky when the Queen got the answer she didn't want to hear, but at least her mirror was honest. Too many bosses are looking in the mirror and being told that they're doing just fine, despite evidence to the contrary.

An article in Training Magazine titled "The Blind Leading the Company" reported on research into manager confidence in their skills and the accuracy of their self-perception. Here's the money quote.
"97 percent of the managers who think they are “good” or “excellent” also believe they know their strengths and development areas. Compare this to only 63 percent of the managers who think they are “fair” or “poor.” Data reveals the managers most confident in their skills are also most confident that they see themselves."

I don't find this surprising at all. Study after study shows people in all kinds of situations are likely to over-estimate their abilities and underestimate the need for improvement. But if you're a boss and you want to be a good one, this research has three powerful implications.
You can't trust your mirror. No more excuses. After reading this post you can't fall back on the "nobody ever told me I overestimated my abilities" excuse.

You must commit to the rigorous and discomforting process of getting the true picture of who you are and how you're doing. Seeking feedback must become a habit. Hearing the feedback and acting on it, hard as it is, must be part of your plan. You can get some help from Mary Jo Asmus' excellent post, "The Value of Knowing Exactly Who You Are."

You must commit to the difficult habit of getting better. As you grow and develop, that target will move as Marshall Goldsmith wrote in What Got You Here Won't Get You There.

Boss's Bottom Line
Lieutenant General Robert Forman summed it up: "In the pursuit of excellence there is no finish line."

Posted by Wally Bock at 8/18/2011 3:42 PM


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