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Always listen to feedback that may appear initially disagreeable: Myra S White & Sanjay Jha

Ankita Rai 

In the absence of internal awareness, individuals can crumble easily at the first roadblock, Myra White and Sanjay Jha tell Ankita Rai

While it is important for a leader or a start-up entrepreneur to believe in himself, such a belief can also lead to overconfidence and failure. Can this be managed?


Jha: The starting block is always self-belief; it is an inner conviction, a clarity of thought, a mental roadmap backed by self-confidence. In the absence of this internal awareness, individuals can crumble easily at the first roadblock ( and you face many speed-bumps along the way, incidentally) or get distracted by quick success or new alternatives.

Either way, all of it can derail the original plan. There is a wafer-thin line between self-belief and overconfidence; the former keeps you constantly grounded amidst odds, the latter can make you reckless, arrogant and often disconnected with reality. It is important to listen to others, particularly feedback that may appear initially disagreeable or discordant.

White: The confidence exhibited by people who become leaders and achievers is rooted in their knowledge of their mini-strengths, the little things that they do well and an awareness and acceptance of their This latter awareness of their leads them to avoid tasks, which they do poorly and delegate them to others.

The overconfidence that at times leads people to fail is a result of the fact that people are often unaware of their lack of competence in a particular area. Psychological studies have found that participants who score in the bottom quartile on tests grossly overestimate their scores whereas those who receive the highest scores tend to underestimate their performance.

You say, "Superstar aren't afraid to fail." But for entrepreneurs, the stakes could be very high. While failure could be a great learning experience, it can also put one's credibility at risk...

Jha: Steve Jobs and Apple are classic examples of comeback epics. Failure is inevitable at some stage or the other of any business entity or an individual. Life is not a cakewalk, superstars are fully aware of that; in fact this awareness comes mostly at the pinnacle of their success when the world anoints them as superheroes. That is why a Roger Federer could handle the dramatic rise of Rafael Nadal or a Tiger Woods became the world number 1 again despite a horrific personal-life crisis. Often we fail not necessarily on account of personal vulnerabilities or bad decisions but because the marketplace dynamics may have changed overnight. Whatever the reasons, the old saying holds true; failures are the pillars of success, especially in a vibrant consumer-oriented markets of today.

White: today, who receive large infusions of venture capital, are particularly vulnerable to large setbacks because they believe that money insulates them from failure and can solve any problem that arises. In contrast, who lack funding are forced to be more resourceful and can only afford to take small calculated risks.

Master of the game
  • Garth Saloner is the ninth dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business occupying the position since 2009. His academic career at Stanford spans over two decades. Prior to this, he held teaching positions at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Saloner, a two-time recipient of Stanford’s Distinguished Teaching Award (1993 and 2008), is one of only two professors to receive this award twice. He has taught courses on strategic management, entrepreneurship and e-commerce
  • He has authored and co-authored two books, including Strategic and Creating and Capturing Value: Perspectives and Cases on Electronic Commerce
  • A native of South Africa, Saloner received a BCom and MBA from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He received an MS degree in Statistics, MA in Economics, and a PhD in Economics, Business and Public Policy from Stanford University

Taking right decision is difficult as most of us are bad listeners and not ready to learn and unlearn things. How can we overcome this and take better decisions?

White: People who become leaders in their fields are information seekers. For example, Narayana Murthy's inspiration for founding Infosys came from his discovery of a US judge's ruling that hardware companies like IBM could no longer prevent users from running software on their computers that was developed by outside vendors.

Unfortunately the internet has created a culture of "information outputers" rather than "information inputers". People are now more interested in voicing their opinions and publishing and promoting them on the internet than listening to others or seeking out factual information.

Jha: The paradox is that at the top of the pyramid leaders usually involuntarily insulate themselves from the outer world. The casual stroll in the office, chatting with the new recruits and having informal meetings is replaced by a structural process. Listening is about giving respect to the other person. It is the ultimate weapon of a good manager or a leader.

First Published: Mon, September 02 2013. 00:14 IST
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