When the juice doesn’t work …


The danger of inflated self-assessment

I’ve previously mentioned humility in leadership and it’s a theme I would like to pick up on.

The following story comes from a paper by James Kruger and David Dunning (Psychology Today, 2009) who studied cognitive bias; the tendency to inflate our own assessments of our own abilities.

In 1995 a man named McArthur Wheeler robbed not one but two banks in Pittsburgh in broad daylight, in full view of the CCTV and without any attempt at disguise. He was, of course, apprehended very quickly and when arrested expressed astonishment he had been identified, saying to police officers “But I wore the juice”. Mr Wheeler had robbed those banks safe in the knowledge that if you rubbed lemon juice on your face then you are invisible to CCTV cameras. Of course you are…

While the story is both sad and funny in equal measure Kruger and Dunning saw it as a metaphor for the type of thinking that is shoddy, ill informed and open to bias.

There are many other studies of bias and distorted thinking and I often cite the study of Ole Svenson (1981) who identified that 80% of Swedish drivers rated their own driving ability as being in the top 30% of drivers. This type of result and evidence of cognitive bias is repeated in those other studies too.

So taking that in the context of leadership and management I’m left wondering how many leaders you come into contact who:

a) use ‘lemon juice’ –  relying on methods or approaches that you can see are not working for them?

b) over inflate their self assessment?

If you visit the Critical Thinking Foundation their bookstore has a Miniature Guide of Concepts and Tools which helps us develop  a “higher order of thinking”.  This means thinking that is free (as we can be) from bias, distortion and shoddy thinking.  Thinking that tests assumptions and encourages us to view our situation from multiple perspectives.

I hope I demonstrate this in my every day dealings but may now consider; what my particular brand of juice might be and is it working…?

Many thanks to Dr Nick Sutcliffe SFHEA of Leeds Beckett University for sharing the Kruger and Dunning paper.


3 Leadership Ideas:

  • How can you get a valid and bias free assessment of your own leadership/managerial capabilities?
  • When do you find time to reflect on your methods and evaluate how well they work?
  • How can you ensure management meetings etc think critically and are relatively free from bias and shoddy thinking?
Posted by John Drysdale
17th July 2015
John's Blog


Liverpool based training company, No Guru is ‘leading in learning’ as the ILM city region hub

North West employers now have access to professional development qualifications for management, team leaders and supervisory staff as Cotton Exchange based training company, No Guru becomes the Liverpool City Region hub for ILM accreditation.


University Contract extended for 2 Years

Leeds Beckett University relationship extended

We are delighted to announce our current contract to provide Staff Training and Team Building to Leeds Beckett University has been extended a further 2 years.

During the next academic year we will be running new programmes around:

  • Strategic Thinking
  • Leading Change
  • Leading & Empowering People
  • Working to Strengths
  • Designing and Delivering Presentations

Additionally we will continue to work with Teams to deliver on the University Strategic Framework as well as completing our first ILM Level 5 Coaching & Mentoring programme for internal ‘Coaching Champions’.

We would like to thank People Development and everyone at Leeds Beckett for making it a great place to work.


NEW: Even more Online Courses

We’re very pleased to announce new additions to our Online Suite of Training Courses.  We have just added:

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  • Effective Delegation
  • Disciplinary Procedures
  • Negotiation

Our course of the week this week is Safeguarding Children.  (more…)


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Image Triage – be careful what you post

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Ronson highlights the case of Justine Sacco (a director of corporate communications) who, before boarding an 11-hour flight from Heathrow to Cape Town, Tweeted to her 170 followers what she thought was a series of lighthearted, acerbic comments about her journey. (more…)

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A recent item appeared on LinkedIn that made me curious.  You may have seen it.

It purports to show a resignation letter written by a disillusioned employee of Arsenal Football Club, citing his reason for leaving: (more…)