What Escaping a Taco Bell Brawl Taught Me About Self-Awareness

By Brett Morgan

NeuPaddy / Pixabay

Back in my college days at Purdue University, my friends and I were winding down a fairly mundane night of painting the town red. We decided to cap things off with a trip to Taco Bell. Rather than peacefully wait for his burrito, my quite inebriated friend decided to pick a fight with some fellow diners.

This already might seem like a bad idea, but it gets worse: His targets were three offensive linemen from the Purdue football team. It’s important to note this exchange happened during the Drew Brees era at Purdue, so these guys were absolute beasts—all surpassing 6 feet and 300 pounds. Although the only outcome I could see involved a trip to the hospital, my overconfident friend kept trying to take a swing at these powerhouses.

Luckily, cooler heads prevailed. We managed to get our burritos and escape unscathed. My friend clearly had a bad case of hubris, along with an overestimation of my ability to take “the smaller guy.” What I couldn’t foresee was how this near-death experience would serve as an important reference point as I developed my leadership skills.

Beware of super-leader syndrome

Taken literally, my Taco Bell incident doesn’t seem to have much application in the business world. But when you think about it, overconfidence in the workplace can have harsh and career-limiting consequences. I’m frequently amazed by the number of business leaders who have significant blind spots when it comes to their own abilities.

It’s a bit of a superhero complex or, more appropriately, a super-leader syndrome. Leaders who believe they’re solely responsible for the fate of their company, their community or the world aren’t living in reality. No one runs to the nearest phone booth (if those still exist), rips off his business attire and flies off to save the day. Leaders cannot succeed without a network of people contributing to the larger goal.

Hubris, characterized by excessive self-confidence, creates barriers to successful leadership. When leaders lack self-awareness, they are unlikely to seek input, ideas or different opinions. As a result, overconfident leaders rely too much on their own perspectives and make decisions without fully analyzing the situation or considering alternatives.

Early in my career, I had a supervisor who talked incessantly about his superior leadership skills. He routinely noted how our director wasted time in meetings on discussion and building consensus. Even though our team was the most productive in the company, my supervisor was adamant he had a better way to lead.

He finally had a chance to put his money where his mouth was after he was named interim lead following our director’s promotion. I watched as he led meetings like a dictator, telling team members what to do and when to do it. He didn’t consider anyone else’s opinions because of his hubris. Our meetings were much more efficient, but the group’s productivity and morale both plummeted. After observing the difference in leadership styles, I was not surprised when he didn’t land the permanent job.

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Source:: Business 2 Community

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