Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Have you heard the term “insecure overachiever” and if so, would you consider yourself one?


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from over 240,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

Have you heard the term “insecure overachiever” and if so, would you consider yourself one?​

  • Yes. I have heard it, but I am not one: 18%
  • Yes. I have heard it, and I definitely am one: 29%
  • No. I have never heard the term: 53%

Insecurity driving achievement. A term that’s been around for a long time is being an “insecure overachiever.” These people (myself included) have insecurities about their performance or their position and those insecurities lead them to invest disproportionate effort into their work. That effort often leads to great achievements. When kept in check, these dynamics can be stressful yet yield great results. Unchecked, they can lead to a complete loss of work-life balance and a loss of perspective on what’s really important. If you’re an insecure overachiever, set boundaries for your work efforts. Cut back on weekend work and late nights. Believe what they’re telling you in your great performance reviews. If you manage one of these people, be sure to let them know where they stand and how solid their work is. Keep an eye out for them losing a sense of balance. Burn out can lead to severe consequences.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He’s the author of three leadership books: “One Piece of Paper,” “Lead Inside the Box” and “The Elegant Pitch.”