Playing the trump card: Why we select overconfident leaders and why it matters

Richard Ronay, Janneke Oostrom, Nale Lehmann Willenbrock, Samuel Eneas Mayoral Rodriguez, Hannes Rusch

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Five studies test the relationship between overconfidence and perceived leadership suitability. Study 1, a field study wherein HR consultants assessed candidates for an advertised leadership position, finds that overconfidence positively predicts hiring recommendations. Study 2, in which participants delivered a five-minute job talk to an expert panel, finds that overconfidence buffers social stress, thereby improving participants' job pitches. Study 3, which tested the effect of confidence on leadership selection at different levels of manipulated competence, finds that regardless of competence, confidence increases perceived leadership potential. Study 4, finds that within the context of the 2016 US Primaries, voters were swayed by candidates' confidence, regardless of candidate competence. Study 5, an agent-based simulation, demonstrates that if candidates adjust to voter preferences for confidence, competent candidates become less likely to be elected. These findings suggest that overconfidence manifests behavioral displays that activate people's implicit leadership theories, thereby increasing perceptions of leadership potential.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101316
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalThe Leadership Quarterly
Issue number6
Early online date13 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


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