Throughout my quest to determine the root of a great leader, I have found one thing to be true: “Everything good in leadership begins with humility.” As I reflect on all of the great leaders I have had in my life, they all had one thing in common: humility. Admittedly, this has been an ongoing struggle for me. I have always been a very confident leader, which has often translated into arrogance. Although I have fought hard to demonstrate humility, there were several times that I failed. Finally, I began to realize that arrogance was always at the root of my failures.
The enemy of everything good in leadership is arrogance – the word itself stings. Alternatives like pride or ego have good sides, but arrogance never has a good side. As I reflect on my past 360° evaluations, I typically scored high in the category of Arrogance – it always stung. If scoring high in arrogance was a good thing, I would be the world’s best leader. Admitting I was arrogant was exceptionally hard for me. I tried to hide behind the fact that I loved people and used that as proof that I was very humble. In reality, I was lying to myself, as my actions did not demonstrate my love for people.
It took me years of battling with myself before I realized that I needed to create change. I have been in leadership positions since 1989, practicing the same leadership styles, so this change did not come easy. Initially I was a horrible leader, which is also hard to admit. Although I achieved the desired results, I failed to connect with people that I worked with due to my arrogance. To make matters worse, the more wins I gained, the more arrogant I became. I used to tell myself that everything I touched turned to gold. I failed to see the body parts that were left in my wake. I was able to become very successful at tackling challenging issues, but from a leadership standpoint, my approach was very poor.
I fully committed to turning my leadership style around in 2009, though it still took time and patience to figure out the root of my issues. To put that in perspective, it took me 20 years to admit that I was not as good as I thought – I do not want it to take that long for you. In 2012, I attended a leadership class called Honda Leadership Summit and could feel myself making the transition from arrogance to humility. I remember sitting across from my leadership coach while reviewing my 360 and I said, “I do not care what people think of me. I am a rock star and people need to accept that.” At that point, it became clear for me that arrogance was my biggest problem, not only at work but also in life. At that very moment, I made the decision to dedicate my remaining time to tackling my arrogance.
Here I am now, retiring at the end of 2020, and can proudly say that over the last 8 and a half years, I have put in the practice and become a more effective leader. I am able to see things now that I couldn’t before and connect with people on a much deeper level than I did in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with arrogance, however it is much less frequent than it was before.
I also spent time contrasting arrogance with confidence, as I do not lack confidence. Although we want to avoid arrogance, we must be careful to not let this hinder our confidence. As leaders, we need to instill confidence in our Associates, as confidence helps eliminate fear and fear prevents people from achieving greatness.
Contrast enhances understanding of Arrogance vs. Confidence.
- Arrogance cannot listen. Confidence does not need to talk.
- Arrogance dominates the meeting. Confidence encourages participation.
- Arrogance stands aloof. Confidence walks beside.
- Arrogance is discomfort when receiving feedback. Confidence is learning for joy.
- Arrogance pursues position. Confidence strives for contribution and collaboration.
- Arrogance is fear of rejection. Confidence enjoys approval, but doesn’t need it.
- Arrogance is paralyzing fear of failure. Confidence knows that failure and learning row the same boat.
- Arrogance relishes being above, over, and better than. Confidence is contentment with self, while acknowledging room for growth.
- Arrogance is thin skinned. Confidence accepts its own inconsistencies.
- Arrogance feeds on applause. Confidence enjoys appreciation but knows service is its own reward.
How to Defeat Arrogance:
Arrogance wants you to think it can be defeated; however, you cannot beat arrogance. In order to put an end to arrogance, you must make a strong commitment to practicing Humility. You need someone in your life who will hold you accountable – someone that will tell you straight.
Arrogance soothes itself with the belief that others have it, while it whispers in your ear that you don’t.
Confess arrogance to a friend – now that is awkward. Arrogance does not confess anything, except that it is evil in others.
Arrogance loves hiding behind comfortable words, such as overconfidence, but hates being named. Refusing to call arrogance by its rightful name protects it.
If you are serious about maximizing your leadership, developing rich relationships, and expanding your contribution to the company, you must spit in the face of arrogance by confessing its presence. By doing this, not only will you become a better person, but a stronger LEADER.