The Two Qualities that Make Leaders Great

Some leaders are humble. Others are driven. The great ones are both.

When Jim Collins set out to write, “Good to Great,” he set out to write about great organizations, not great leaders. But, he found great leaders at the top of great organizations. So he wrote a book about great leaders.

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Arrogant or humble:

The relationship between arrogance and humility is either or. If you have one you don’t have the other.

Self-importance might build your career but it doesn’t make you great.

Arrogance goes up as you go up the chain. Alan Robinson, co-author of, “The Idea-Driven Organization,” gave me a rich perspective on the danger of arrogance. Alan believes arrogance is a type of mental illness.

Arrogance means, “I can’t take in information from others.” (Alan Robinson interview)

Closed ears indicate arrogant hearts.

Alan in his own words: (1:43)

Arrogance  ignores and rejects ideas from others – humility welcomes them.


Driven leaders are humble when they drive toward improvement.

Alan’s experience reflects my own. You don’t meet a lot of people who are really driven toward improvement. Arrogant leaders are in it for themselves.

Teaching humility:

I asked Alan if humility can be taught. He said, it’s not so much teaching as removing and preventing environments that make arrogance acceptable. The perks of leadership create that puffed up feeling in the chest.

Distance creates arrogance. The further you are from the front line, the more likely you are an arrogant leader.

Alan on teaching humility: (2:15 )


Build humble organizations by promoting humble people and protecting them from the dangers of power.

What behaviors express the combination of driven and humble?

I recommend, “The Idea-Driven Organization,” by Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder.