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Simone Usborne from the Guardian called me yesterday. He was writing a provocative article on #niceness – “Why do we think we’re nicer that we actually are?”. He wanted to talk about my studies on self-perceptions.

We all suffer from the illusion of being nicer and deceive ourselves in many ways.

For example, we tend to over-estimate our leadership skills.

Taking a new look into our study on gender gap and feedback, Usborne highlights the implications for matching peer ratings to self-rating to encourage self-reflection.

Margarita Mayo, a professor of leadership at IE Business School in Madrid, followed more than 200 MBA students over a year. At the end of each term, the students rated themselves and their teammates on various leadership qualities. Sure enough, peer ratings were lower than self-ratings at the start of the year. But, with each assessment, the feedback encouraged self-reflection and, across the board, self-ratings fell. Did they ever match the ratings of peers? “Only among the women,” Mayo says from Madrid. “Despite it falling [from the start of the year], the men continued to inflate their self-view.”

The women displayed a great self-awareness more quickly, which is good, but Mayo is concerned that where this ego gender gap relates to confidence, “it could be a step back for women in terms of career progression”.

For men, meanwhile, the concern is that inflated self-perception leads to inflated job prospects. “It’s a double-edged sword,” Mayo adds.

She has since looked into the effects of narcissism in the workplace and finds that humility trumps ego where quality is considered a priority.

“Narcissistic leaders may climb the corporate ladder more quickly, but humble leaders tend to be much more creative and effective, while also serving as role models,” she says. In short, they really are nicer.

To read the full article click here.

Margarita Mayo

I´m Margarita Mayo. I´ve been a Professor of Leadership and Psychology at IE Business School since 2000. Prior to that I was a Fulbright scholar at Harvard University and professor at Ivey Business School. I feel passionate about scientific dissemination, and I have more than 20 years of international experience teaching courses on soft skills, giving keynote conferences and coaching executives on leadership development and change management. Always eager to help develop the next generation of leaders.

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