“Why I’m So Great”*


*With a nod to a Nietzsche (who was no slouch in the self belief department) and his essay entitled, Why I Write Such Good Books.

The ever-entertaining Lucy Kellaway has another good column in yesterday’s FT. She cites a recent Harvard Business Review article that claims to have established a strong link between exaggerated self-belief and incompetence. In other words, the people most likely to overestimate their ability are those with little ability to start with.

I’m sure most people in their working lives have encountered just such a type. Certainly  the world of PR seems to be populated with more than its fair share. However, as ever, there appears to be a paradoxical attitude to this in the world of spin (I can’t say whether this is more prevalent in other sectors). Senior managers appear to give these self aggrandizers the benefit of the doubt. Even though they fail to deliver the results, their “attitude” is deemed to be  worth more than those who achieve what they say they would, but don’t crow about – or embark on internal self-publicity campaigns.

I guess the psychology is that people want to believe that these people can do what they say they can do – a kind of cognitive dissonance applies, so that they allow their logical concerns to be over-ridden. Of course, you can’t get away with missing targets forever – but the trick is to move on before someone blows the whistle – moving up the greasy pole and avoiding being brought to account.

As Lucy says, in the work context, “Self doubt is not allowed. You can’t say – I don’t know if this will work.”

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