Why Bright Leaders do Really Dumb Things

The poor judgment of politicians, generals, and CEOS can sometimes be unbelievable. How could such intelligent people with prestige, money, and opportunity think so many people would believe their deception? Do they simply drop their IQ along with their moral compass on their leadership journey. How can these bright people be so blatantly stupid to think they can get away with such actions?

Before answering that, lets look at a few of the basic beliefs of some bright (and really confused individuals). These five beliefs are held more dearly than good judgment.

Belief #1: I will get away with my lies. (I am really smart and favored.).

Belief #2: I am surrounded by stupid people. (I am smart. Smart people can fool stupid people. I will fool them. See Belief #1 for more clarity).

Belief #3: I won’t hurt myself or anybody else. (Smart people are made differently than others. I am smart. I can fix what ever happens. See SMART test below).

Belief #4: The people who got caught before me were stupid. (I am smarter than others. So, this is really no big deal. See Belief #1).

Belief #5: The rules don’t apply to me (The laws of physics and, of course, the laws of the land are suspended in the presence of smart people. I really am on a higher level. My trials are far above these lowly terrestrial beings that surround me. See Belief #1).

Now that we understand smart people, let’s get back to the original question. How can such bright leaders really believe they can get away with their stupid actions?

The answer is simple. They spent their life getting to this point.

It all started innocently when their talents first got them leniency for other shortcomings. In fact, people discounted their bad behaviors or (even worse) made excuses for them. Basically, they got off the hook and started to believe they really are different from others.

They began believing that shortcomings are just not that big a deal. After all, their talents overcome all obstacles. They posted an “As Is” sign to their chest to remind themselves and everyone else: “You just need to accept me. No changes needed.”

Furthermore, they learned that feedback was unneeded. Why should they listen to anyone’s feedback when they have done so well without it? (After all, they are surrounded by lower level beings. What can these insignificant life forms know that has not already been considered?)

Is there any place in your life that you really need to accept feedback? I can guarantee you that right now there are people in your life who are needing you to listen to feedback. Reach out and really listen. Then, make the changes. Just like you don’t fall into arrogance trap all of a sudden. You don’t get good at receiving feedback all of a sudden. It is a learned skill just like playing piano. It takes practice.


About the Author
Dave Jennings accelerates meaningful change. He has worked with leaders from 20 of the Fortune 500 and spoken in 23 countries. His articles and commentary have been featured in The Washington Post, Forbes, and thestreet.com. He is author of Catapulted: How Great Leaders Succeed Beyond their Experience. Contact Dave at dave@davejennings.com.

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