Leadership Lessons from Zombieland: Know Yourself and Your Strengths
I love movies – they’ve been a constant companion in my life, both in good times and bad. During this pandemic, I have watched the movie for lessons on how to best manage myself during the chaos of the apocalypse. While the doomsday we’ve been facing lately is probably feeling like a movie fingeringwho has really hit home for me during all this Zombie Land.
For films set in a world unparalleled from our daily life experience, the key to success is that they set rules to tell audiences how the world works. For example: if you remain completely still, the T-Rex will (most likely) not eat you; Or the first rule of Fight Club is not to talk about Fight Club. Zombieland However when it comes to presenting the laws of existence for its unique world it is more explicit than in other films, as its 32 rules serve as a central thematic element throughout the film.
While being a financial advisor doesn’t (technically) require us to know how to survive a zombie apocalypse, the film’s iconic set of survival rules are good to live by. While all of the rules presented are rich for discussion, I want to focus on perhaps the most important rule here: “Don’t be a hero.” In Zombieland, it means don’t risk your life just to make yourself look good. In financial services, this means not risking your own career or the reputation of the organization to save face or inflate your ego.
But not being a hero is not as easy as just taking off the cape. To gain a deeper understanding of the mental battles at play here, let’s consider some of the cognitive biases that shed a new light on why many leaders struggle to delegate and manage teams effectively, as well. How can we thrive in chaos despite these prejudices?
Lake Wobegon Falls This was fully illustrated by John Jacob Cannell’s report on elementary school performance in all 50 states in 1987. The report noted that all schools were well above the national average—and none turned a blind eye. But the average thing is that some fall below it, some fly up and settle in that beautiful bell-shaped curve in the middle.
The name of this illusion is an allusion to popular radio broadcasts of the same period, a prairie house companion, which was set in the fictional town of Lake Wobegon. One of the host’s most memorable taglines for the show, given the deadpan, was that Lake Wobegon could claim its inhabitants that ,All the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the kids are above average.”
The fallacy that Cannell showed through his study was that despite the mathematical impossibility for all of us to be above average in everything, we collectively overestimate our abilities in areas of knowledge.
just like zombieland, Chaotic or high-pressure situations at work can put us on autopilot, making us even more vulnerable to acting on our unconscious biases. That’s why it’s important that you ask yourself, and answer honestly, “What am I exceptional at?” or “What is my outfit best at?” I can guarantee that the answer will not be everything. By discovering our abilities as individuals and teams in this way, we can define the things we can help. Once you are clear about those needs, hire and delegate the appropriate people to meet those needs and handle that part of the work. On a macro level, this is why there are left and right integrations within fintech—the smart players in the industry know that no single solution can do everything above average.
Along similar lines, Dunning-Kruger Effect Describes our tendency to overestimate our ability and knowledge, especially in areas in which we have little expertise. A groundbreaking study by David Dunning and Justin Kruger at Cornell University in 1999 highlighted that the less familiar a person is with a skill, the greater the disparity in how much they will value their competency in the same skill. . Conversely, studies have shown that true experts tend to underestimate their potential because of their more accurate gauges on what they don’t know about their field of study. The phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know” has never been true.
At work, this influence may be due to our need to feel competent, a high priority placed on self-confidence, or the mistaken belief that our experience in one unrelated area can be transferred to another. In general, specialization is specialized. For example, being a famous filmmaker doesn’t mean you can repair a car engine or solve calculus problems intuitively without explaining how.
If you’re reading this and wondering, “Oh no, am I a Dunning-Kruger?” Remember this: We are all kinds. This bias is driving people to play hero when they shouldn’t in every field; You’re not alone. And, there are ways to combat it. Here’s something:
- Fight against your ego. There is always the possibility that you are wrong and additional information can (and should) change your perspective. In some cases, this may mean delegating responsibility for empowering others.
- Focus less on being the devil’s advocate in meetings or on FinTwit and instead be your own devil’s advocate – question your assumptions about your skills, strengths and weaknesses and look for points you can go wrong .
- Ask for feedback often, and from a variety of perspectives. Be open to constructive criticism, avoid defensiveness.
- Say yes to that refresher on the basics to stay competent in your field; True experts know that it is often necessary to revisit the fundamentals.
When you choose to play the hero, you run the risk of unnecessarily exacerbating yourself to the detriment of your team – the opposite of the outcome you want. Jeffrey Pfeiffer, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Harvard University, once said: “Your most important job as a leader is to teach people to think and ask the right questions, so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off.” It’s off.”
You are not capable of working up to your standards alone, and people will appreciate you more, not less, for taking a step back and trusting them to succeed on your own.
Rick Williamson is Director of Training at Redtail Technology