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Leadership Team management

The OverConfident Incompetent

by Emanoil Draganescu

Modern organisations face a new type of character, which I am gonna call the OverConfident Incompetent. This is a new type of organisational breed that can be easily recognised by the fact that he/she is not really able to to be highly competent in a specific field, but displaying a confident attitude is able to gain power inside the organisation – propagating a fake competence perception. You can say that his/her main competence is confidence. But this type of confidence is not based on real knowledge or skills.

Today, the access to a large quantity of information, leads to less time spent on accumulating, deeply understanding and experimenting with the acquired information.

Photo by Oliver Sjöström 

The OverConfident Incompetent bases his/her knowledge on Google searches, reading on Wikipedia, watching YouTube and reading social media streams and further extrapolating the information to organisational level. Sometimes, these are sources of incomplete or misleading information.

In an empty space, being an OverConfident Incompetent is not a big deal, but using the confidence and power to squish people around you, by pushing your opinions in the organisation is a big issue as this is destroying a good organisational culture.

In my opinion, the overconfidence is destructive in general because is making a person less aware of her weaknesses. Most of the time, an overconfident person is not aware of the personal areas that need improvement. But overconfidence per se is not a problem if it does not lead to lack of knowledge and as time goes by, to technical incompetence. If it does not stop a person to learn and develop I do not have a major issue with overconfidence. But I do not encourage an overconfident behaviour. I really think that humility pays back. It pays back because is developing trustfully and healthy work relations.

The overconfidence destroys human respect and team spirit across the organisation. If you are a leader, being overconfident will turn you into a dictator in the long run and will keep people from growing.

Most of the overconfident people are becoming bullies inside the organisation, leading to a culture of mistrust.

The Dunning – Kruger effect is visible more and more in the companies and in the life of the people these days. This explains the growing number of overconfident incompetents. But the real “power of the overconfident incompetent” is when Dunning Kruger effect is present at the managerial level in large organisations. :). Beware of overconfident people in large organisations. They might be less competent and narcissistic. A large organisation is a medium where this kind of managers are able to cope and even grow. There are many organisational environments where you will find incompetents in top positions, their accession being supported by the politics and the display of a confident attitude.

The bottom line is that promoting overconfident people, in time, you are developing a culture based on incompetence. This will affect the organisation as whole.

There are a number of amplifying factors that we must consider, especially in large and fast growing organisations.:

  1. Fast organisational growth that require new managerial skills all over the organisation. There is not enough time for the managers to develop the skills necessary to lead with competence
  2. Fast industry change require new technical capabilities, which people in charge do not have time to properly develop, but they remain in the formal position
  3. People do not take time to develop in-depth understanding of the real problems
  4. New managers are pushed in functions, without proper qualifications,
  5. Large quantity of junk information around us, including rumours and information coming from non-reliable sources

Practicing and developing a humble attitude, constant investment in training and learning, developing a culture of openness and exposing corporate bullies and incompetents are the right things to do in maintaining a healthy organisation in the long run.

Praising leadership and managerial competence I believe is the right thing to do, both on personal and organisational level.

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More about Dunning Kruger effect can be found here