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MARKET LIFE: John Wooden on Overconfidence

By Dr. Don Capener

John Wooden once said, “It’s very easy to get comfortable in a position of leadership.”

Players, or employees, believe you have all of the answers, particularly if you have enjoyed past success. People may start saying you are the smartest, brightest, fastest in the business. But the moment you begin to believe it, you’ve lost the game.

In fact, any self belief that keeps you from actively learning and listening to others who are creating innovative and new strategies is a game-stopper. Wooden said, “This is one of the main reasons it’s so hard to stay on top.”

If there is one key to success, in my personal opinion, it is experience. Running play after play, and investing sweat, years, and tears. Many executives lack seasoned experience when they reach C-level. Best case scenario–a leader who really paid his/her dues while working for someone else or learned hard lessons when she/he failed in a previous business venture.

Once you’re No. 1, it is easy to believe positive press, adoring fans, or the most satisfied clients. But this is the point at which you must work even harder. Now that you have achieved success, each subsequent success will take greater effort.

Simple Ways To Avoid Overconfidence

  • Avoid the temptation to believe that past achievements signal future success.
  • As a leader, never be content and think you know everything about your business.
  • Remember that no two customers or employees are the same. No one customer is representative of everyone you will serve.
  • Each individual under your management is unique and has something of value to add regardless of their position within the company. Learn about the backgrounds of people you meet or work alongside.
  • Don’t underestimate your competitors.

Coach Wooden also said, “There is no one formula for getting your team to play well together.” It is both science and art simultaneously. That “mix” is difficult to pull off, let alone lead to perennial success, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

From the man who led UCLA to win 10 NCAA championships and 88 straight games, we might learn a thing or two about how to continue winning or staying ahead of the competition.

Dr. Don Capener, Dean of the Jacksonville University Davis College of Business

MARKET LIFE is a recurring feature in WAVE, a dedicated news source at Jacksonville University. E-mail commentary and questions about market and money matters to Dr. Don Capener, Dean of the Davis College of Business at Jacksonville University, at dcapene@ju.edu. Or read the latest from Dean Capener’s desk on LinkedIn.