Roots of healthy confidence
John Baldoni describes leading as “taking initiative.” Initiative is risky and requires confidence. However, healthy confidence may turn into unhealthy arrogance.
Symptoms your healthy confidence may have gone too far
#1. Talking too much and listening too little
#2. Lack of open ended questions
#3. Concern for image overshadows authenticity
#4. Never apologizing
#5. Taking credit for other’s work
#7. Disloyalty and lack of trust among colleagues and staff
#8. Making up your mind too quickly and then refusing to change
Finding the roots of healthy confidence
Healthy confidence is a result of alignment with organizational values, mission, and vision. When your attitudes embrace organizational values, when your decisions express organizational mission, when your outlook drives organizational vision, you have legitimate reason to be confident. You can say no to others and correcting people has context. In addition, dedicating organizational resources isn’t self-centered, you have cause to challenge others, and you can take healthy pride in behaviors that enhance organizational success.
One reason employees and leaders lack confidence may be organizational values, mission, and vision are empty words on dead white paper. They aren’t organizational life blood. Its leadership’s job to take these words and make them live. When they do, the foundation of healthy confidence is laid.
What if your confidence has become unhealthy arrogance?
Working to overcome arrogance may only exacerbate the problem. With that in mind, I’ll venture one suggestion. Apologize to people. Take responsibility for behaviors that aren’t aligned with organizational values, mission, and vision. When was the last time you apologized to someone? Can you remember? If you can’t remember, are you really so good as to never need to take responsibility for your shortcomings?
Thanks to Mike Myatt for his blog “Confidence vs. Arrogance.” His article got me thinking about this topic.
How can we bolster confidence without crossing the line into arrogance?
One way of ensuring we remain on the side of healthy confidence, is living with an attitude of gratitude, one of your older posts!
Thanks for Dan and Mike for reminding us of important things 🙂
I’m grateful for your reminder.
Success to you,
I feel people who do these things are not leaders. They are thieves, because they have stolen legitimate position from a real leader. Real leaders have no reason to do any of these things.
Leadership IS character. No character = no leader.
The sad thing; I’ve seen arrogant people holding positions of leadership. Sadly, I’ve done it.
I’ll add the other side of your comment. Just because you have character doesn’t mean you understand leadership. Nor does it mean you would be a good leader. For example, a support person may have stellar character but that doesn’t give them the courage, foresight, or people skills to lead an organization.
There is one more sign of arrogance and that is passive aggressively trying to control or discredit others (that make you feel threatened).
Story: A client invited me and another of his consultants to a meeting. When the other consultant was finished presenting his findings and plan, the client asked me to weigh in on the customer service aspects. As I started to speak “This plan is many solid points …”, the consultant jumped up and said in an arrogant tone, “Now relax, calm down …”
I am high energy and he chose to use that to cast a shadow over what he feared by be criticisms of his plan. I continued on with my comments to help the client.
When leaders do this to their own teams, it can be a devastating blow to participation, morale, creativity, innovation, and results.
How can leaders prevent against insecurity turning into arrogance? In quiet private time, list your “weak” areas/traits. Then note the benefits of those very traits AND the risks. Read that brief list every morning. Once it is in your conscious mind, you are more likely to act appropriately in those areas.
As for apologizing, here’s a post with loads of comments that hits that topic:
Once again, Dan, your writing style communicates both great content and spurs thought/change.
Great illustration and suggestion for keeping people grounded.
I’ve read your article and find it insightful and useful. Thanks for leaving the link.
Best to you,
The first “Featured Blogger.” Kate Nasser consistently gives back to the LF community. In addition to the Featured Contributor page, I’ve added a Featured Blogger page. Kate is the first blogger I’ve listed. You can read a bit about Kate at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/featured-bloggers/
Beautiful post, Dan. Your term “healthy confidence” is a great way to express what is needed in leadership. At the core of healthy confidence is a habit of centering (and revolving) around the Christ who created me.
I especially love the 8 points to evaluate confidence vs arrogance.
Thanks for the good word and for sharing your faith.
Great question..with leaders sharing facilitating the ability to listen to others and realize that positive illusion (self belief that you are great) is dangerous. This happens constantly. For example the leader says, “Of course I am a great leader, great leaders do x,y,z.” Remember that the leader is defining x,y,z in reference to themselves.
When you ask someone else about this leaders ability they may say “He is a horrible leaders he doesn’t do p,q,r.” Again the person you are asking is defining good leadership in their own image.
Here is generally how I separate confidence from arrogance came across this from Alan Weiss’ “Thrive”:
Confidence – the honest-to-goodness belief that you can help others to learn and grow through your talent
Arrogance – the honest-to-goodness belief that you can help others to learn and grow through your talent, but you have nothing left to learn yourself.
Thanks for adding value to this discussion. I particularly appreciate the problem of self-reference as the point of confidence. You must have perceived my desire to get beyond that by bringing organizational values, mission, and vision to the broader topic of confidence.
In my own life an important component of confidence is the honest-to-goodness belief that even if I can’t right now, I can learn. I love that feeling.
I hope you continue sharing your insights and perspective.
I think this concept of healthy confidence is foundational to great leaders. I also think you can err in the other direction…false humility can be equally fatal as a leader. I think of it in terms of stepping up to the “Line of Who You Are” – nothing more and nothing less.
If you’re interested, I wrote about the concept here: http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/step-up-to-the-line/
As always, thanks for your insights!
False humility is a great addition to an important discussion. Thanks for leaving a helpful link.
I read the post you wrote. Very insightful. I love this quote: “Ironically, most arrogance is the result of insecurity.”
Best to you,
I appreciate your point that healthy confidence leads to unhealthy arrogance. I think most of the people make blunder mistake when they take lead thinking that they have confidence. It is their mental judgment and not others. So, to avoid, people have to be taken into confidence. I see healthy confidence as over confidence and calculated confidence can mitigate unhealthy arrogance. So, here the difference between healthy confidence and calculated confidence is the feedback and consensus from others. If leaders can add people dimension in their confidence, it can lead to confidence success. Arrogance is always the product of our intention. So, intention differentiate between overconfidence and calculated confidence.
I see how arrogance excludes others and feeds on itself and how including others actually combats the problem.
Ajay is a featured contributor of LF: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/featured-contributors/
I had a supervisor who was fond of saying, “there are some people whose emails I do not read,” and gave the example of, after a three week leave, returning to the desk and deleting all emails from the individuals deemed “not-to-be-read.” As a subordinate, I used to snicker at that comment. I knew one of the main “not read” people and understood the history behind how the individual probably ended up on the list. Several years down the road, I think I am now one of the “not-to-be-reads” and I HATE the feeling, both knowing I am an “un-read” and that I am referred to by the individual to my peers as that. It would be a much clearer sign of leadership (and downright humanity) to discuss with the “I-don’t-read-your-emails-ever” people why that is the case and how it could improve; the current plan is cowardly, arrogant, and distinct unleaderlike.
Personal stories have power and you powerfully illustrate the down side of crossing the line.
I feel a “how to alienate others” post coming on… 🙂
Best to you,
Step 9 Holding ritualistic meetings without focus that are more about you that the meeting…and/or you are late for your own meeting.
Probably could add in overt/covert bullying too.
If you engage in 1-8, then step 9 will need to be apologize, apologize, apologize.
One might suggest that engaging in any/all of 1-8 (which are internally driven) could also point to an underlying lack of confidence.
External clues that you inflated head will not fit through the double doors of humility…
1 People, in meetings, give you less eye contact or worse, roll their eyes
2 Once dynamic meetings have an appearance of a funeral
3 Standard non-verbals, arms crossed, hands on hips, actual avoidance in halls
4 People stop showing up for meetings or are late
5 Decisions start getting made without you
6 You are appearing on TMZ or have made the top 10 list with Letterman
Hmm, I’m going to start watching TMZ… should I look for you or me? 😉
Thanks for bringing up meetings. Definitely a pet peeve of mine and I hadn’t thought of including them here.
I hope all is well for you.
Doc is a Featured contributor on LF: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/featured-contributors/
So often I find “leaders’ who fall prey to these “unhealthy arrogance” traits do so because they have been that way throughout their professional and personal lives or they find themselves subject to undo pressure from the Board or senior management to deliver. These “unhealthy arrogance” traits are a cheap exit from being an accountable leader who takes responsibility for his/her decisions.
A number of the personal examples here focus on the “unhealthy arrogance” leaders we have encountered. I would be interested in your take on dealing with a leader that displays these traits, since most of the examples appear to position the story teller in a subordinate role.
Interesting slant on some sources of unhealthy arrogance as being rooted in Boards or Senior Management. I can see where pressure to make problems go away and delivering immediate results may contribute to “unhealthy arrogance.” You are making me think some new thoughts. Thanks
Your question of “dealing with an arrogant leader” is challenging, as I’m sure you know. How can one humble another person when of all virtues, humility is something that, of necessity, is self-imposed. One must humble them-self. I’ve started a document with the title, “How to help an arrogant person be humble.” I’ll keep the context of dealing with a person in leadership. I’m not sure how to respond but it’s something to mull over.
In addition, if the source of arrogant behavior is a board or other higher ups then the solution most likely lies with the higher ups and board.
Very enjoyable comment, Thank you.
Jim’s bio is a Featured Contributor of Leadership Freak. His bio: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/featured-contributors/
I find out about your blog from Kate. I like to learn and discover points of view which help everyone to be better on their job, and life.
You have a very interesting blog, with lots of good opinions. I personally don’t have experience in leadership, I only like this subject, I like all about developing. And some times I”m disappointed when I meet people which seem very serious and promise a lot of things , and in the end they are only talking, without a good strategy, without supporting and creating a good team .
-People which present an arrogance, I personally think that are people with personal problems, they want to look powerful but they are the opposite.
-We must understand them and with our own behavior to create maybe a good change in them !
All the best!
Thank you for stopping in and sharing part of your story. One of my hopes for Leadership Freak is people who are either new to leadership or who want to learn how to lead will derive benefit. I’m honored you would stop in.
Thanks for letting me know you heard about LF from Kate. I’ve learned a lot from her and she’s an encouraging supporter of LF.
Keep coming back 🙂
I very much like your observation: “Its leadership’s job to take [organizational values, mission, and vision] and make them live. When they do, the foundation of healthy confidence is laid.”
I also love Bob Sutton’s post: ‘The Wise Boss: More Evidence For Expressing Confidence, But Harboring Private Doubts’ (http://www.whatdoyouwantfromthem.com/members/blog_view.asp?id=560366&post=105222)
He writes, “The best bosses, we argue, have what psychologists call the attitude of wisdom: They act with confidence, while doubting what they know.” He also talks about the tricky quest of sometimes having to act more confident than one feels.
Thanks for your comment and for leaving a link to your blog that extends the conversation.
The publisher sent Bob’s book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, to me. It’s next on my read list.
I hope you keep coming back.
I have one NOT TO DO:
Send him off to Siberia with a 1.6 million payout http://www.economist.com/node/16693567?story_id=16693567&fsrc=rss
Thanks for the link and the not to do. 🙂
Kathy your link raised all sorts of questions for me, thanks!
Great post Dan! I really enjoyed Ajay’s add too. Those I admire most practice what I call the “law of appreciation”, if you lead with gratitude it breeds gratitude and builds confidence with humility. Many leaders forget to say thank you, maybe that is because you only notice what to be grateful for if you are giving to others. With regards to apologies, many do not know how to apologize, we could do a whole other discussion on that topic 🙂
Good to see you again. Thank you for the good word.
I think you are spot on. Gratitude defeats arrogance and builds healthy confidence.
Thank you for adding value.