The Cost of Being Clueless

Everyone has a unique collection of strengths and weaknesses. One theme in life is pushing the boundaries of one’s limitations, becoming a more capable person all around.

People have to live with some of their limitations, at least for a while, as some are quite resistant to change. Significant improvement requires a concerted effort. Distinct problems arise when people are unaware of their limitations. When overestimating their abilities, people can set up failure situations or take on risks beyond what they would reasonably contemplate.

They are also less likely to take effective action to improve their abilities because they do not recognize any problems. When difficulties occur, they generally blame other people or bad luck rather than look to any shortcomings on their own part.

Additional problems arise when the capability in question is leadership ability. When people have a poor idea of their strengths and limitations as a leader they do not only create problems for themselves. They create serious problems for the people who look to them for leadership. That is, some leaders may believe that they have a consistent and effective record of acknowledging their employees’ contributions when they actually praise them infrequently. They may believe that they keep the team focused on their primary mission when actually they often distract members with trivial or irrelevant issues.

Overestimating leadership abilities creates problems for others, not only for the leaders. Leaders who overestimate their abilities are less likely to respond effectively to challenging situations. When employees are experiencing distress, they lack the insight necessary to evaluate the situation critically or to reflect on their own potential contribution to the problem. As a result, their employees become additional distress in demanding circumstances, a situation that is the opposite of team resilience.

A generous amount of self-knowledge is a valuable resource when developing resilience in team members.

    • Self-knowledge prompts effective learning. When leaders are clearly developing their own capabilities, they inspire team members to do likewise.

    • You might be part of the problem. Recognizing how they may contribute to or aggravate a problem allows leaders access to the person whose behavior is most directly under their control: themselves.

    • Self-knowledge reduces risks. A close mapping of one’s ideas with reality allows for more effective coping. A reality-oriented leader is a great resource for any group seeking resilience.

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