Thursday, March 27, 2008

Above average leaders

  • Are the people in your organization smarter / better / more intelligent than the average?
  • Are your leaders smarter / better / more intelligent than those from most other organizations?
  • Are your leaders smarter / better / more intelligent than the rest of your organization, or do they think that they are?
  • Are you, your team, your organization better at dealing with ambiguity and risk than the average?
  • Are you a better driver than the average?

If you answered yes to the last question then you are in good company. A study by Ola Svenson in 1981. ("Are we all less risky and more skillful than our fellow drivers?". Acta Psychologica 47 (2): 143–148.) found that just over 80% of drivers considered that they were in the top 30% of drivers in terms of driving ability.

In 1987 John Cannell published a study in which he found that every state in the US reported that the students from that state had on average scored higher than the national norm in educational tests!

In other studies, project manager's ability to project manage, leaders ability to lead, people's time management capability, sales ability, ability to deal with ambiguity, police officers view of their force and their policing capabilities, military personnel's view of the standing of their service compared to others, etc. all report the same thing. That they are at least above average and usually in the top few percent of the population.

tendency to overestimate one's achievements and capabilities in relation to others is a common effect especially when people are reporting on traits or attributes of themselves or groups to which they are affiliated. It has it's own name - The Lake Woebegone Effect after a fictional town in a radio series A Prairie Home Companion, where, according to the presenter, Garrison Keillor, "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

Obviously with the exception of a couple of mathematical obscurities, only half the population can be above average.

This may account for one of the findings I had recently that most senior (board level) leaders tend not to engage in development activities but require that others below them do.

Most of us are, it would appear, when compared to everyone else, above average!

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