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Beating the Odds

A Leader’s Biggest Pitfall

It’s said that power corrupts.

Well, it does worse than that.

According to a study reported in Forbes magazine, power can make you stupid. (No jokes about Washington, please.)

Four researchers, intrigued by issues like BP’s oil rig disaster, joined to learn whether overconfident people are drawn to power, or whether power itself creates their overconfidence.

Their answer should give pause to anyone in a position of leadership: coach, boss, educator, even parent.

“Not only do overconfident people tend to acquire roles that afford power,” the study’s authors concluded, “but the subjective sense of power brought on by these roles causes people to become further overconfident.”

One danger for leaders is insulation. The more power they gain, the smaller their trusted circle becomes. They hear fewer opinions, and even fewer dissenting opinions.

That’s why kings of old let court jesters say what other people were afraid to mention.

Good leaders always have someone around to tell them what they need to hear, even if they don’t like it.

Famed tennis coach Nick Bollettieri learned this lesson from one of his pupils. “Andre Agassi said a terrific thing to me when he was going home on a vacation,” Bollettieri recalled. “He was 14, going on 15. He said, ‘Nick, do you ever listen to anybody? You’d be surprised what you could learn.’ That really helped me become a better listener.”

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One comment for “A Leader’s Biggest Pitfall”

  1. Great nuggets in this post, Coach. Lots here to live by!

    Posted by Larry | March 8, 2012, 2:25 am

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