Leaders without self-awareness don't see the need to develop

Christian Nyvang Qvick, Senior Consultant, LEAD

To develop as a leader, it's important that you have a certain amount of self-awareness and mental energy. If you have both, you may be able to avoid ending up as the "uncle talker" at the family party, writes Christian Nyvang Qvick.

Have you considered how massive a political and organizational focus we have in Denmark on developing good leadership in both public and private organizations? The Quality Reform from 2007, the Management Commission's recommendations in 2018 and, most recently, the Management and Competence Agreement are all examples of initiatives to help strengthen management in Danish workplaces.

However, an organizational focus on leadership development is not enough - the individual leader must also see a need to develop and have the desire to develop if the good intentions of better leadership are to be put into practice.

But here, psychological research tells us that a number of common human reactions can occur in individual managers and throw a spanner in the works of the whole big development wagon.

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"I've got a damn good handle on it"

Firstly, the individual manager may believe that they don't need to develop as a leader. A survey from the National Organization of Managers, which was answered by 1,388 managers, shows that 18 percent do not expect to participate in leadership development activities over the next year. It's worth mentioning here that leadership development not only covers formal education, but also participation in conferences, seminars, theme days, courses and networking groups, as well as the assignment of a coach or mentor, reading leadership books or performing new leadership tasks. Of the 18%, one in three say that the reason they don't engage in these development activities is because they don't think they need to. To put it bluntly, these Danish managers believe that they have mastered the act of leadership to something close to a 12-level.

But could it be that among the people who don't think they need leadership development, there are some leaders who actually have the greatest need for development? If you ask psychology professors David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the answer is a resounding "yes!".

The two psychologists have shown that we humans tend to overestimate our skills in areas of life where our insight is lacking. In other words: The fewer skills we have in a given area, the greater the tendency to overestimate our abilities. At the same time, they have also shown that the reverse is true: people who are truly skilled tend to underestimate their abilities slightly. This phenomenon has been dubbed the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The managers who need to develop the most are also the ones who have the hardest time recognizing it. Here we can talk about a cognitive barrier to development, which can be summarized by the statement: "I don't understand that I need development."This post is an abridged version of the article published in Mandag Morgen .Read thefull version of the article with examples here.


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