How leaders benefit from having someone tell them the truth

How would you rate your driving skills? In a US study, 93 percent of respondents rated themselves as above-average drivers. In another survey, 36 percent of drivers believed they were an above-average driver while texting. This phenomenon, called illusory superiority, recognises a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their positive abilities relative to others. They could benefit from having someone tell them the truth.

Likewise, I believe some leaders who suffer from illusory superiority about their leadership capability could dispel it by inviting trusted advisors to tell them the truth. I recall a boss of mine urging me to tell him what he needed to know. I will not mention his name because it will only embarrass him. “There are plenty of people who will tell me what I would like to hear. But I want you to tell me what I need to hear,” he said.

To his great credit, he was never defensive when I reminded him of his invitation before giving him feedback. Other leaders I have known said they wanted feedback, but they didn’t mean it. They only wanted to hear the accolades.

Kevin Wilde talks about the value of finding your truth-teller in Coachability: The Leadership Superpower. He makes the case for having trusted advisors to keep us in our learning zone. They boost our confidence and prompt our humility to remind us we are still on the leadership journey, he suggests.

Wilde says, ‘Highly coachable leaders value self-improvement and growth. They value living in their learning zone as they confidently regard themselves as a work-in-progress and not finished perfection. If they have a blind spot, they want to know about it.’

🙋 What are the benefits of leaders being coachable and open to feedback in your experience? 🙋

Best regards, Brian

PS: Most of my clients come from referrals from people like you. If you know someone in your network who you believe could benefit from executive coaching, please connect us.