When conﬁdence is detrimental: Inﬂuence of overconﬁdence on
Amanda S. Shipman
, Michael D. Mumford
University of Oklahoma, OK, USA
article info abstract
Available online 8 June 2011
Confident leaders are seen as competent and capable by others. However, excessive amounts of
confidence may be detrimental to a leader's performance. The purpose of the current study was
to identify indicators of overconfidence and examine the influence that overconfidence has on
certain kinds of leader performance. Results indicated two elements of overconfidence: seeing
deficiencies and expectations of positive outcomes. Low levels of confidence associated with
seeing many deficiencies, is beneficial to performance in leader planning and vision formation.
However, high levels of confidence associated with expectations of positive outcomes, are
related to effective vision statements. Implications for results are discussed.
© 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Self-conﬁdence is traditionally viewed as valuable to leadership performance. Leaders who are conﬁdent welcome challenges
and set difﬁcult goals (Luthans, Luthans, Hodgetts, & Luthans, 2001). Not only is conﬁdence said to help leaders take the risks
needed to persevere in working towards their visions and objectives (Black & Porter, 2000; Northouse, 1997), but a leader's
conﬁdence increases the follower's willingness to work toward the leader's objectives (Luthans & Peterson, 2002). The question
arises as to whether this leader characteristic is always beneﬁcial. Conﬁdence, when in excess may be the underlying cause for
leaders making poor decisions, continuing with failing plans, and ignoring obvious ﬂaws. The repercussions of these actions are
more than inconvenient, but quite detrimental as seen throughout history in incidents like the Bay of Pigs debacle and Napoleon's
March on Moscow. Given the potentially detrimental consequences of overconﬁdence in leadership, exploring this topic further is
Although leadership researchers have not focused speciﬁcally on excessive conﬁdence, related topics have been explored in the
literature on destructive leadership. Leadership hubris is one such area that has received some attention. Hubris reﬂects
individuals with not only excessive self-conﬁdence, but also puffed up egos and highly positive, unrealistic self-evaluations (see
Judge, Piccola, & Kosalka, 2009). Thus, hubris includes overconﬁdence, but it also extends beyond just overconﬁdence into
constructs like pride and self-worth. Owen and Davidson (2009) described how certain American presidents have demonstrated
hubristic behaviors, including Kennedy with the Bay of Pigs ﬁasco, Nixon with the Watergate scandal, and Bush with the decision
to invade Iraq.
Destructive leadership researchers have acknowledged that even leader traits that are considered beneﬁcial can become
destructive. Along these lines, theories of charismatic leadership were originally proposed to describe a positive and effective
leadership style (e.g., Bass, 1985; Bass & Avolio, 1994; House & Howell, 1992; Yukl, 2002), however, charisma can have a ‘dark side’
where it becomes destructive and ineffective (Conger, 1990; Howell & Avolio, 1992; Padilla, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2007). The destructive
charismatic leader may pursue personalized objectives at the expense of others, identify so heavily with his/her vision that gross errors
and miscalculations are made, and manipulate others to maintain control (Conger, 1990). Deluga (2001) proposed that destructive
charismatics share a similar feature as Machiavellians, which is self-conﬁdence. Machiavellianism is another destructive leadership
approach that involves pursuing one's own self-interests using manipulation and deceit (Christie & Geis, 1970).
The Leadership Quarterly 22 (2011) 649–665
⁎ Corresponding author.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (A.S. Shipman).
1048-9843/$ – see front matter © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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