You are viewing an archive of our posts and leadership content. We have evolved. Click here for the New Leadership Hub.

Depressive or Delusive: Which is best in leadership?

by Phil Dourado January 16, 2008

Colin posted a book review on leadership and self-deception in the Hub Book Club and said it provoked the most changed behaviour out of all the books his leadership group at Black & Decker had read and discussed.

That prompted me to dig out this from my notes - it's something Marcus Buckingham said at Leaders in London a couple of months ago - and to ask for your comments to help me clarify my own thinking. Complete honesty or a touch of positive self-delusion? Which works best in leadership? My instinct is always the former, but Buckingham said this:

"Some people are deluded about what they are best at. But delusion doesn’t matter (up to a point). If you think you are best at something, it improves your performance. In 360 assessments, there is one group that is the most accurate about assessing their own performance versus how other people assess them. And that’s depressives. The most highly productive people, by contrast, are slightly positively deluded about how good they are. So, self-awareness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be." *

Marcus Buckingham, speaking at Leaders in London 2007.

Shame, because part of my schtick about the problems with leadership is that leaders don't 'confront reality' enough (as Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan put it). According to Buckingham, it's not as simple as that. I still think there are more downsides than upsides with self-delusion. And that managers and leaders being deluded about their own performance causes a dissonance between them and their colleagues and their customers that outweighs the boost to their own performance that a slight blindness to their own deficiencies might create.

What's the most powerful force in the Universe? Denial.

*That's my paraphrasing based on my shorthand notes, rather than a direct quote from Buckingham.

So, do please help me out by posting your own thoughts on this to help me clarify mine (and hopefully your own?). Thank you. Phil .