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HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration, HBS


Expressions of confidence can give leaders credibility. In the political realm, they can earn votes and public approval for decisions made in office. Such support is justified when the confidence displayed is truly a sign that a leader (whether a candidate or an incumbent) is competent. However, when politicians are overconfident, the result can be the election of incompetent leaders and the adoption of misguided policies. In this article, we discuss processes that can lead to a confidence “arms race” that encourages politicians to display more confidence than their rivals do. We also illustrate how overconfidence and hyperbole have impaired responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in many nations and offer guidance for distinguishing politicians who display levels of confidence that reflect their true assessment of a situation from those who fake their self-assurance. We then suggest ways that leaders in all spheres can convey uncertainty honestly without losing credibility, and we propose a way to prevent overconfidence from resulting in ineffective or counterproductive legislation.


Moore, Don A., and Max H. Bazerman. "Leadership & overconfidence." Behavioral Science & Policy 8.2 (2022): 59-69.