Finding Real Leadership Power
Humility is real power, arrogance façade.
15 Ways to be an arrogant leader:
- Rush. “Important” people don’t have enough time.
- Look serious. The more important you are the more serious you look.
- Detach. “Arrogance comes from detachment.” Henry Mintzberg.
- Take calls or text during meetings. Now we know you’re important. Ooooo!
- Know. Act like you know when you don’t. Arrogance makes learning difficult.
- Delegate dirty work.
- Isolate. Be too good for the “little” people.
- Insulate. Create protective environments.
- Blow up. Anger and arrogance are relatives.
- Tell don’t ask.
- Speak don’t listen.
- Complain and blame rather than solve and support.
- Surround yourself with groveling yes-men.
Humility requires more confidence than arrogance. Fear makes us pretend we know, when we don’t, for example.
Humility is found, expressed, and nurtured in connecting. Arrogance pushes off; humility invites in. Withdrawal suggests independence; connecting expresses interdependence.
Humility builds trust. Trust fuels leadership. But you can’t trust arrogant people. They reject what’s right for what makes them look good, when necessary.
How to be a powerful humble leader:
- Stand your ground where values are concerned. Humble leaders submit to noble values.
- Realize you aren’t your title.
- Demand excellence from yourself, first.
- Call for, and enable excellence. (Emphasis on enable.)
- Don’t believe your own press. People aren’t telling you the full truth.
- Sit at the side not the head.
- Brag about others. Fools make others feel they don’t matter.
- Say thanks. Gratitude softens arrogance.
- Invite feedback.
- Ask as well as tell. Curiosity reflects humility. Warning: questions may be control-tools. I confess that I use questions to control conversations and divert attention from myself.
- Do the opposite of the arrogant leader list.
Teamwork requires humility. Dennis Perkins wrote: “Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race.” He became a crew member on one of the racing boats. During our conversations, he shared lessons in humility. (6 min. 30 sec.)
How do arrogant leaders behave?
How can leaders develop and/or express humility?
Good Morning Dan… I can’t tell you how loudly and clearly this post resonated with me! Too, too many leaders believe that “arrogance” is a leadership strength rather than a weakness… and too many organizations therefore allow their leaders to behave as such! ARG! This is a big pet peeve of mine, can you tell? LoL!
In leadership coaching, it is one of the areas that executives frequently need to focus on… their arrogance, they believe, “protects” them, preventing them from having to show traits that make them accessible, make them high EI leaders. Once they can get beyond it thought – they feel liberated!
Thank you for this post. It is relevant, timely, and delivers a message that needs to be heard over and over again.
Thank you Rachel.
Your insight regarding liberation is powerful and true in my life.
I find the path away from arrogance toward humility isn’t a giant leap but an ongoing, and sometimes painful, journey.
Every now and again, I catch a glimpse of my own arrogance in the mirror. It’s hard because I don’t think I have a problem with arrogance.. 🙂
This is my favorite post of yours yet. I’m going to challenge myself to read this every morning for a month. Seriously, it’s good stuff.
I think it’s important to have a great definition of humility. False humility is not accepting a compliment. “Oh, it’s not me…it’s my team.” “That’s kind of you to say, but I’m just lucky.”
Instead, humility isn’t denying your strengths it’s admitting your weakness’s. “Thanks for saying that. I’m thrilled every day I get to lead this group. Together we really accomplished something we are proud of.” or simply reply….”Thank you” when someone pays a compliment. Denying your strengths undermines both the gift of the strength and it discourages others to fully utilize theirs.
Thank you Eric.
You make a great point. If humility is pretending we are weak, you can have it! I’m not weak at everything. I can do few things pretty well.
You make me realize that arrogance doesn’t leave room for others to have their strengths. I have them all … or, my weaknesses aren’t as bad as yours… Arrogance is comparative with others.
Nice and very informative.. Thanks for sharing this Sir… 🙂
How do arrogant leaders behave? Drumroll……arrogantly!!!!!
Leaders can develop and express humility the same way every other human being can: above all else everyday in everyway treat others as you would like to be treated.
That about covers it, right?
Hey Dan how about ME attempting to say more with less words!!!!! Hehe
Have a great day, carry on.
Thank you Scott.
Wow! You must have been in a hurry today.. 🙂
So so so so true. Been in situations where if a person just said, I don’t know what I’m doing but if I could just get a little direction…it would have made a world of difference! Thanks again.
Thank you Red.
My pride says, I’d rather learn the hard way than admit I don’t know…Pow!
I know, right??
Of course I know!!
Your post today resonates deeply. About a decade ago, I took a test which measured leadership on five levels, per Jim Collins’ “Good to Great”. The results showed me to be a level 4 executive, with humility lacking to achieve level 5.
I had to admit I was clever enough to disguise my pride – even from myself. Since then I’ve tried, with God’s help and that of friends, to change. It is a continual, never-ending battle – but worth it.
I love your list of 12 items. Thank you.
One way of framing this that has helped me is not to frame leadership as service (Greenleaf), but rather as stewardship. Stewardship means we have been placed in our role to be responsible for the good of the organization we serve, its owners, its people, and especially its purpose. A steward leader will willingly train his/her replacement and become an active follower, if that is the right thing to do. He/she will love deeply the organization, its people, and its owner(s).
The biblical Nehemiah stands out for me as a model of humility. He voluntarily left a role of cupbearer (trusted person, often in charge of the Persian king’s treasure as well as tasting his food) to help a small broken-down city on the outskirts of the empire survive by building its walls and by leading reform. His account is personal, yet inordinately humble. In 53 days, those he led rebuilt city walls, using only their own hands, and while being watched closely by hostile neighbors. Nehemiah was humble, but no wimp. He had character enough to call out wrongdoing, compassion enough to buy out slaves with his own money.
‘Nuff said. I really liked your post today. Thank you.
Marc, I LOVE the concept of stewardship! I think you are ahead of your time on this concept and that it would do organizational leaders good to learn about this and embrace it… What a great comment – you have triggered some great stuff for me!
We learn to be more humble when we recognize a divine being and our comparative insignificance. He has enough time for each of us, are we better than Him?
I am only four years into my position as principal of an elementary school. i completed my degree and got the position within weeks. I had always thought I would spend time being an assistant principal where I could hone my skills and become comfortable before I took on the head role, but there was a different plan for me. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would lead this building with no experience and how the staff would accept me. I thought about the things I didn’t like about principals I had worked for in the past. The one thing that I kept coming back to was arrogance. I have told people many times…”I don’t know the answer to that question…but I will research that and get back to you.” I have found that being honest and looking for an answer is always better than acting like you know. People respect an honest person and appreciate knowing that the response you give is correct instead of leaving wondering if you really knew what you were talking about. Just as many commented on a previous post…It is better to remain quiet and seem a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
I’ve found that “bad” leaders have demonstrated to me how to be a “good” leaders sometimes much more powerfully than “good” leaders have. I see you went the same route.
However, identifying good leaders, surrounding yourself with the ones that have what you want so that you learn to do what they do, is not to be ignored as a valuable technique. In a way, it’s harder to do, because – really – they’re just normal, right? Most leaders lead quietly and are unremarkable. It takes some effort to “see” them.
Your post and the comments thus far bring to mind a great leadership book entitled “Jesus on Leadership”. One of the things that I found valuable in the book is the central theme that great leaders are great servants… Or stewards, as one of your readers states.
This attitude, when embraced, can help leaders identify with their teams better, recognize obstacles quicker, find opportunities and reflect team successes in a very honest, open way.
Oh, and don’t forget loyalty. A servant leader is much more likely to have team members who are loyal to the team and to the collective vision because they are fully vested in each other, the team goals and ultimately, the outcome.
Great post. Thanks to you and your readers for the thoughts.
@kbshearer: Who is the author of that book?
C. Gene Wilkes. Enjoy!
What a classic list of qualities about arrogant leaders. One point that drew my attention to the list of humble leaders is do not trust your people about truth. We tend to trust whom we rely. I think you are right. When we trust someone, we tend to overlook many weaknesses. At the same time, we become over-reliance on the source. The way to overcome is to test the truth and trustworthy person from time to time. To do that, leaders need to crate situations and collect information through various modes.
I am struggling hard to find out how do arrogant leaders behave, because you have covered almost all the points. However, I will add two points here. Arrogant leaders distort the information. They communicate untimely and improperly. They block the full and right information. Only Yes men have enough information. They want people to appreciate and flatter them. They do not believe being questioned. They like rumor, propaganda and cooked stories. Humble leaders on the other side, avoid such behavior. They know the consequences of such behavior and moreover, humble leaders are not self centric or egoistic like arrogant leaders.
Great post! A servant leadership style will accomplish more in the long term than arrogant leaders. Sometimes an arrogant leader may appear to get things done more quickly when they lead with fear tactics, but in the long run the arrogant leader will run out of people to lead. Servant leaders know how to form long term relationship where their people feel valued.
A well balanced analysis of arrogant and humble leaders.
Symptoms as identified are okay but one needs to understand the real reasons of arrogance. If it is situation based then a little arrogance is justifiable. It should not be part of someone’s habit and the seniors need to keep a close watch on it. The habitual arrogant leader needs to be warned for protecting the work culture and human relationship with subordinate staff. Otherwise, there would be greater damages.
Dear Dr. Asher,
I appreciate your concept of habitual vs situational arrogance. Habitual arrogance is dangerous phenomenon that create fear among the people. I feel this comes from incompetency of the leaders. So, creating space by creating fear is only way to protect position. This kind of practices should be dealt severely. This practices inhibits creativity, effort and encourage backstabbing. However, situational arrogance is a healthy symptom. People take it as a positive step. They also fear but this fear is positive in nature. This enhances creativity, effort and discourages backstabbing, rumor and sycophancy.
Thanks for adding your comments. I am in agreement to what you have said. Effective leaders certainly need to refrain from habitual arrogance and those who can’t should be warned to bring in the desired improvement. There is a definite role of CEO and HR to ensure the healthy work environment at the work place. Otherwise, there will be a negative impact on staff productivity and/or high attrition rate.
So true, I was out with a group of colleagues today looking for new blood. I knew it was going to be a good day from the mood I was in. I had my ‘stupid’ head. Fab results too, nothing serious today.
Wow, Dan! You really nailed it!!
The first list, arrogance, describes the entire leadership team where I used to work. (Operative words: “used to.”)
The second list, humble, describes the managers where I currently work…for less money.
Thank you for reminding me that good, mature leadership is worth more than a hefty salary!
I remember being taught by Hugh Hood, at the Université de Montréal, where I took English Literature. He was a very disciplined writer, believing that good results came from 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. And he was very confident as he lead his class.
One day, I boldly remarked in front of all students how conceited he sounded. He turned from the board and addressed me directly, “It is not a mark of conceit to know your strengths, but is indeed the mark of humility.”
That has stuck with me. And today, as I raise young adults, I remind them how important it is to know their strengths and to use them generously and wisely.
8 and 15 are particularly close to my heart.
an arrogant leader has a weak accomplice team around and this is not “power”, remember your industry competition.
arrogant, because it’s safe, easy and short term gratification that eat you in small bites
I’m going to laminate this and put it on our “leader’s” desk. 🙁
Dan, the link between humility and confidence is a game-changer.
Humility in leadership, I believe, is an extension of a general attitude to all cohabitants on earth – everyone has value and something to contribute. You may disregard this, but at your peril. As a leader, do you have the right or indeed the luxury to judge someone to be of lesser value than yourself? You are, after all, entrusted with looking after a greater cause than just you.
It is interesting to note that those with Faith and belief in a bigger picture are automatically humble – they understand that they are only one cog in the whole machine and each cog has its own value and function.
Dan, I really enjoy reading your posts and what a wonderful service you provide to leaders! I have, many a time in my leadership journey, read your post and felt rejuvenated in the pursuit of the purpose behind my leadership. I thank you sincerely.
Funny how my first thought was to think that this topic did not apply to me…my second thought was that it ALWAYS is applicable! Good stuff.
Very interesting read – thank you!
I think it really is an eye opener in that we can sometimes do things that will come across as arrogant when really we either don’t realise it or that wasn’t our intention.
Will be keeping this nearby at work I think! Provides some much needed direction.
Very good article i will apply the humble powerful leader mindset
A great article. It reminded me of something that happened 25 years ago. When I was in the Air Force I made the mistake of addressing a superior officer by his first name in the company of other superior ranks. He spoke to me about it afterwards and said (something like) “I think I can command a little respect”. I pointed out that respect cannot be commanded only earned. As it happened I did respect him and told him so and aplogised for having embarrassed him. To his credit he did accept my position on that and went on to become a great senior officer, liked and respected by everyone.
I believe that to see the behaviour you want from others you first have to demonstrate and live those behaviours yourself.
Excellent post! Very thought provoking and challenging. Reminds me of John 13 and servant leadership. Keep up the good work Dan!
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30
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