3 Ways to Identify Arrogant Leaders
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I recently heard a great speaker in Atlanta named Clay Scroggins (Author, How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge). He made this point:
“Arrogant people don’t ask questions.”
I had to think about that. Test it against my experience. See if it was an exaggeration – or could it be so?
He went on to say….”they not only don’t ask you questions, they do not ask themselves questions either.”
Hmmm. Thinking over all the arrogant people I’ve ever met. List very long. May take a while to conclude.
(a minute passes)
Dang. I think it’s true!!!
Here are three easy ways to find out if a leader is arrogant…
THE TELL-ASK RATIO:
Count the number of things the leader came to TELL you, compared to the number of open-ended questions they ASKED you. Anything above a 3:1 ratio may indicate a problem (just a hunch).
A surrogate for this test would be – how long did they talk relative to how long they listened. Try this in your next project meeting with your supervisor.
THE DON’T ASK/DON’T KNOW SCAM:
If you think you are working for someone arrogant, take note of how many times they declare things to the organization that they do not actually know to be true.
- “We will launch a new product by X.”
- “We will have that problem solved by Friday.”
- “We will overcome this adversity.” (Just to mention a few possibilities.)
THE KNOW ME/KNOW THEE TEST:
Ask the leader to share one of their most difficult experiences and what they learned from it. If they can’t think of one, well, you know what that means.
Another version of this test? Ask them to name your three children at the next company picnic. If they smile, nervous laugh, and walk away…
3 WAYS TO PRACTICE HUMILITY:
- Listen carefully.
- Ask inquiring questions.
- Know yourself and know your team members.
That’s humility. And it drives performance.
What are some signs that a leader is arrogant?
How might leaders practice humility?
Cheryl Bachelder is the CEO who led the remarkable turnaround of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. from 2007-2017. She is the author of the best-selling book Dare to Serve: How to drive superior results by serving others. She blogs at Serving Performs: http://www.cherylbachelder.com.
Watch them pound their chest, hear them roar, then they slide out the back door.
Got the don’t ask/don’t know here….when they don’t know…it turns into the “Things are only getting better”…on a daily basis!
Excellent topic and wise counsel!!!!
Would love to have this book! I already love this blog!!
“How long did they talk relative to how long they listened?” Kinda difficult for a lot of leaders, self included. Something for me to contemplate, for sure.
Denied or sdeways accountability (I’ll take responsibility but it’s really…..’s fault)
It is in serving others that we accomplish more. I was taught growing up, that I should surround myself with people who know more than me. This way I am always asking questions and learning more. Admitting that I am not the expert, allows my team to shine and learn leadership skills. A win/win for all of us.
Thanks DAN… title of this book is very intriguing!
Nice points! One other sign I have noted in an arrogant leader is when speaking publically all examples revolve around them.
…and usually these examples are centered around their greatness…
Leadership should be inspiring, difficult to excite or move people when you’re doing all of the talking. Listening helps build your culture. By the way, great chicken and good commercials running for Popeyes.
Great read! Humility is often under-valued particularly in the context of performance. Humility builds efficient leaders, efficient leaders develop high performing teams, high performing teams deliver results.
Servant leadership is the way to go! Removing obstacles is the most important part of leadership.
I strive everyday to be a servant leader to those in my organization. I never want to be arrogant or perceived as arrogant. But in my humanness and position of influence I hope to not go down the road of acting arrogantly. I practice humility by listening, really listening to people and hearing their fears and problems. With my influence I then try to solve the problem if it needs to be solved. But sometimes people just need to be heard and know that you care.
Great reminder on the tell:ask ratio. Thank you.
One of the evidences I see of arrogant leadership is the failure to acknowledge people with simple, polite greetings. This is a very small thing but it communicates volumes about the leader’s sense of self importance. An arrogant leader always corrects reports, documents, spreadsheets to reflect the way HE would have done it. This results in demoralized, unmotivated subordinates.
A humble leader listens and appreciates an individual’s contribution resulting in a deeper commitment of the individual to the humble leader. Humble leaders attract quality, committed followers
I’ve never heard a linkage between making future unknown commitments and arrogance. Sadly, arbitrary deadlines and commitments like “We will have that problem solved by Friday” are commonplace, if not expected in today’s business environment. Seems to me that it’s either arrogance (predicting the future) or a subtle form of lying (promising something that may not be possible). When I’ve been placed in that position by those higher up in the organization, it’s very demoralizing. I’ve seen more than one project fail because of that arrogance, falsehood or ignorance. Solving the problem is whole other issue, and sadly, one that I haven’t figured out yet.
Really like the idea of asking questions… how else do you get to know your employees, find out what excites them and what frustrates them at work… Asking questions also results in some great suggestions from the front line on how to make things better… Sounds like a fantastic book!! Thanks for this post Dan!!
I find that I appear arrogant the more frustrated I become. So, it’s looking at frustration and understanding how to manage this that will lead me to be able to listen more, then appearing less frustrated.
When the arrogant leader is identified, how do you work within that realm??
I have been under many different types of leadership, but I respond (and have seen others respond) best to servant leadership. As the quote goes, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Thanks Dan!
Would love the opportunity to have this book and learn more!
This post speaks so much to what so many of us have been learning from you all along , Dan – curiosity, humility, servant-leadership, and the critical nature of self-reflection.
In addition to the tell-don’t ask phenomenon is the prevalence of “I” statements– all the things that “I” think or do or have done or am doing (as opposed to “we”, and as opposed to any concern about what else is going on around them). The self-absorbed approach to being in charge (not to be confused with actual leadership) prevents trust and collaboration…and the more I learn about ego v. humility in leadership, the more aware I am of (and thoroughly irritated by) the “I” focus in others. And when I find myself being irritated, it forces me to look at my own words and actions and attention to others. The humility checks you share with us are priceless for those of us who aspire to servant-leadership!
This is the opposite end of the Leadership scale from the EQ leader and it the focus of conversation with my clients in how to avoid this fear based and ego based behavior. I would love a copy of your book. Electronic would be fine. Thanks!
Great post! I have found that not only do arrogant leaders not ask questions, when they do practice what I refer to as “false humility,” they make a very obvious point of asking questions, but then argue against or refute the answers. It can be very damaging to relationships and stifling to productivity.
I have noticed a fairly strong relationship between arrogance and insecurity, which might seem counterintuitive at first. However, this understanding provides a more effective perspective in dealing with people who have arrogant tendencies.
Arrogant leaders practice humi… …humiliation!
So sad to see this every day so close.
I really like, “Ask them to name your three children at the next company picnic” because so many people don’t pay attention to those details and they are important!
The Leadership things you speak of are often things that I was told but forgot, so every time I read your reminders I am reminded and try to press forward on becoming a great leader
I like reading about humility, and I have made a note of a previous one of your lessons: “There is no permanent cure for arrogance. Thinking otherwise is arrogant”. It reminds of what CS Lewis wrote: ‘If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed…”
So true, and I like the “tests” to confirm the hunch you are working with an arrogant boss. Naming your kids is a great one, I may try that one someday soon.
Dan, thank you for your regular focus on humility and its ugly cousin, arrogance. Thanks also for highlighting this book. It is a great read with many wonderful leadership lessons,
Whether selected for Ms. Bachelder’s book or
ordering it on line, I look forward to the experience of devouring it. I truly believe that serving others is how great leaders act to achieve superior results. All of my experience bears this out. As President of Ortho-McNeil (and later, Worldwide Chair of the Pharmaceutical Group at J & J) The “Jobs for Bob” program was instituted by my Associates where I would learn one of their functions by doing on rotating shifts. To serve, to know, to believe and understand is to build the respect and trust required for your Associates to want you to be successful.
I just recently had an experience where I met with a leader for an hour, and I think I spoke for about 7 minutes of that hour. Very eye opening.
I appreciate the 3 ways to practice humility. In my work supporting schools, I am constantly aware of the need to keep myself in check. Teachers are amazing individuals and if I am not asking questions to understand their needs ( many just make assumptions) I am not serving them well.
In regards to the ask/tell ratio, it also matter how they ask the questions. Belittling questions delivered with a condescending tone is sometimes worse than telling.
Great input! The “ask/tell ration is so important. I need to share this with our leadership team.
Great point about naming a co-worker’s three children. I’m always embarrassed when a person I respect asks about my family and seems to remember pertinent details about them. It makes me feel good and wish to extend the same understanding to others.
I try to write down notes on my contact cards to help me remember other’s family member’s names. It is not that I don’t care, but I have trouble remembering names. I can usually remember the story about people, but struggle with the name.
Thank you for the confirmation that remembering details like that are important.
Servant leadership is a new road to discover. Thanks Dan.
I find that there are two important attributes of a humble/servant leader. First they admit when they don’t know the answer. And second they admit when they are wrong or made a mistake. No one is perfect. Acknowledging this and making it safe to admit mistakes is the key to becoming an effective leader.
Heard Clay Scroggins talk about his new book on Andy Stanley’s podcast, I highly suggest it. And getting to know my team better (know thee) is a great way to show respect and appreciation for their hard work.
Love the tell/ask ratio. Great points to take to my next meeting with my boss.
“Arrogant people don’t ask questions.”, so true, luckily I just don’t see as many in this way as 30 years ago. Maybe as a society we have evolved and the “arrogant” just get weeded out along the way.
Even in a fast paced environment, it is very telling to see the difference between a servant leader that cares about their team members and those that are there to announce that they are in charge and “this is what we will do”. I appreciate this point of view in looking at the ask vs tell count.
This is wonderful advice! I am fortunate to work for an organization where we live out servant leadership. I believe it is of utmost importance to keep this information at the center of your focus and continue to work on it on a daily basis.
I have never heard it put this way: tell:ask ratio. What a helpful way of thinking about it! Reminds me of the axiom about how we have two ears and one mouth-listen twice as much as you talk. Thank you.
I would be interested to get your perspective on digging into a team members family life. Some people like to keep things close to the vest. Some team members I know everything about them because they easily volunteer the information and some people I don’t even know if they are married or have kids. I usually try to follow up on things they readily volunteer. “Did you have a good weekend?” “We went to watch my son’s baseball game.” Okay, at least one child and baseball, got it.
Once we think we know everything and don’t need to ask questions, we just became the most foolish person in the room. Definitely the definition of arrogance. Good reminders today to notice if we are going down this path and rectify it.
I like the 3 suggestions to practice humility! Something all of us should work on!
I’d add to the list the ‘leader’ who doesn’t let others finish a sentence or a thought. They always want to have the last word!
Great topic and something I’d love to read more about.
Excellent post. Thank you.
3 ways to practice humility is a great way to build genuine relationships within the team as well. Thanks for the tip.
Such a great reflection piece for me.
How well do I know my teachers? (I am an elementary principal). I think I know them pretty well but I know I have more I can learn!
Loved this post!
Wisdom is the principle thing, without it there is no humility! Thank you for sharing Dan.
Love this! What is a way encourage humility on the team as a leader but not the manager?
Interesting subject and like Cheryl, I had to think a moment and you know it is true. As I think back on my leadership, I want to believe that I haven’t done this but now that it is out in the open, I will use this blog to remind me to always serve and practice humility.
Love this! What is a good way to encourage humility on the team as a leader but not the ‘manager’?
So how do you work with a leader who is both arrogant, demeaning and ignorant? This would be a great read for them,but they would not read it because they already know everything! Dan, thank you so much for your daily insights, they keep me focused on striving every day to be a good servant leader.
It’s interesting as I don’t consider myself to be arrogant; however, I also don’t ask enough questions. I would also love to have this book 🙂
I know that i am more introverted and terrible at remembering names, hope I’m not arrogant, maybe I need the book to find out???
Arrogant leaders are often the ones that do the most talking. My most successful meetings are the ones when others do most of the talking and I do most of the listening (and note taking).
Recently adopted the Scrum. Agile framework. This article compliments best practices from Agile/ Scrum. Very interesting!
As an IT Director, I’m constantly battling this, because as knowledge worker, I am required to know the answers, but I also have SMEs that are being paid for their opinions and expertise. The challenge is making sure that everyone knows that I have the responsibility to make the decision and will be held accountable or the the results. Which means that, just because I didn’t choose their Idea, it doesn’t mean I’m being arrogant. Now, when I am looking for a confirmation bias, because I’m insecure or don’t like the right answer… That’s a different story and something I try to work on everyday. There are some nuggets in this post that hit close to home, and I am going to make sure that I know the names of all of my team member’s children, if I don’t already.
Good leaders are a rare breed nowadays. Humility is hard to find in today’s society. Thanks for today’s blog.
Humility is critical to servant leadership and developing relationships-relationships are critical to high performing teams. Another clue to arrogant leadership-key into how many times they say “I” or “me”. Good leaders refrain from those words.
Great topic and intriguing book. Hope to read it soon!
I’m interested in hearing more! We are listening less and expecting people to talk in soundbites not sentenced. Ty
Allow me to have a different tone…I think it COULD be a sign of arrogance.
For some it takes time to formulate, analyze, and ask questions. Making sure that the question we’re about to ask is relevant or maybe we’ll hear the answer in a few moments (introverts anyone?).
Some bosses ask many questions but fail to ACTIVELY LISTEN to the answers provided by their staff. At which point stop only tell them what they think they want to hear rather than a viable option.
You can identify arrogance by listening to the pronouns used. Arrogance will suggest that “I” did this and “I” did that. Hoping that their awesomeness is now validated by their significance. When people use “we” did this and “we” did that, they’re minimizing the spotlight on themselves, even though they were a significant player.
I wonder if that need for validation to more of a validation of competence and acceptance by others?
Add to this – the leader who is always right and who gloats in the satisfaction of proving others wrong.
Great tips. But the post title should be :”3 WAYS TO IDENTIFY ARROGANT MANAGERS”
Things I look for are 1) Listen to the number of times they use the word “I”. 2)o they take credit when the team wins or do they give the credit to the team
All of these comments! yes. glazing over when the question he asked is being answered. anyone who disagrees with him gets put on a list – even if it’s someone he has known and supposedly liked for years. never reads to learn but talks about books he should write.
Ouch, that hurt … in a good way. As a servant to leaders my listening skills are not my best quality. Often, I have too many questions forming in my head, because I need to flush out a clear direction to accomplish their goals. When doers are not given the “space” to ask what is needed to accomplish what is desired, leaders may have the answer to why something failed. Leaders need to realize what they “see” or “envision” needs to be hashed out with the doers, so everyone see the same “picture.” The best thing a leader can do for me is to be patient while I adjust the focus on the project “binoculars” and give me the space to ask clarifying questions.
No better is the leader who technically asks a question, but listens only to hear confirmation of what they have already decided the answer should be. I strive to be a leader that asks questions with the genuine intent to learn from the answers and move forward together.
I work with many grad students and as they talk about their advisor, I often hear the ” telling” as opposed to the coaching.
I teach them how to serve while maintaining strong boundaries. True leaders are servants.
Asking open ended questions are huge but pausing and reflecting before responding is even bigger. This act displays respect and a true desire to learn as opposed to telling. Authentic gratitude goes a long way in modeling humility for those we lead.
True leaders don’t just ask questions – they are open and receptive to the answers provided. Arrogant leaders can still ask lots of questions but are dismissive to both the responders and their responses. Listen with the intent to understand not to respond – that is how one serves their customer.
I will certainly remember the point on tell/ask ratio–how do I rate? I try to serve; this is a good reminder.
Arrogant leaders seem to be those that read you THEIR manual on how to do things their way. I, me and mine are words they use a lot. Validation I believe plays a big part of one’s perspective. A servants heart is necessary to do the job because we need to make sure we have all the information before we begin. We need to know who, what, why, when, where and how before anything happens. Would love to read the book because my boss has a personality that fits the description.
So true! So needed!
I’ll take 1 please 🙂
Another pertinent and insightful blog. Thank you, much appreciated.
So true. Could also add, “Arrogant people not only don’t ask questions, they don’t like to be asked questions.”
Look forward to reading Cheryl’s work.
Excellent article & excellent timing for posting it (as always for 99.999% of your posts, Dan)!
You’re one of a few people that, once I get a decent computer, I’ll be going back through all your tweets & reading your entire blog. Why? Because over the short time I’ve followed you on Twitter, you’ve basically done an entire course in leadership in general & business in particular. The only thing you try to sell is how to be or become the best leader one can be & It’s not just frilly positivism, you speak about the good, bad, indifferent & ugly aspects of it.
Please don’t use my contact info to email me anything other than if I got the book offer. I’m still working on clearing out the past few years of spam. still have 10 years on one account to go to clear out & organize what’s left & several other accounts to do the same with lol
This phrase from your guest post is phenomenally important: “… they do not ask themselves questions either.” Arrogance (ego-stroking is another description) is, my words here, rooted in believing one has all the answers. SO, why ask yourself any questions – irrelevant!!! Earlier today, I came across this quote from Eric Hoffer: “In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” The learners ask questions of themselves and others. The learned believe they have the answers – arrogance / ego-stroking …
The tests you suggest are interesting and it’s got me thinking – do I do any of those things? Time for some self-reflection and looking at how others respond. Thank you for another great post that makes me think and improve!
What and insightful piece.
I am always aware that I come forward as very intimidating. I have tried to work at it and feel I might just be making an improvement.
This piece has allowed me to reflect on my own practice and one of the things I have wanted to improve on is asking questions, and the ask/answer ratio has been a good way to confirm this.
Thank you for these insights.
Hmmm….interesting. I just reflected upon the people I have met and all the three conditions need to be true for someone to be arrogant.
Arrogance talks more about themselves and their needs/desires than about their mission and vision!
Would love to read your book!
Interesting! Looking forward to reading your book!
Wise guidance for a topic that we don’t think about often enough. Looking forward to reading the book
An interesting, eye-opening post!
I have come across an arrogant boss who was acting more like perfectionist and insisting the same from me all the time. I liked this quality but was never to state this and the things that he expected. He was to find a gap area and was to fire on top of his voice! He worked as VP-HR but had no humility while dealing with subordinate senior management staff. His intentions were good but didn’t have the basic manners while he used to loose his temper.
I tried to put forth my views for any missed area with an assurance of going extra careful next time. But, he was not considerate enough to look at such things with positivity! I wish, he could have been more specific on the things that he wanted with cautionary remarks of not missing out on the finer aspects.
In my view. arrogance at the workplace level is undesirable and more harmful.
Excellent points! The leaders who tell rather than ask are probably not reflective, transparent or truly serving to anyone but themselves.
Great post. Arrogance is also a sign of that person’s professional development. A lot of the time that arrogant person never was on the receiving end of an honest, critical conversation. Their bosses took a shortcut and were lazy at mid- and year-end performance reviews. No one truly invested in their professional development. The end result is an unaware, arrogant person.
Enjoyed the 3:1 principle.
I like this post a lot. Wish i had seen it three days ago, before I resigned from my current position due to my arrogant boss. He is an academician actually and we were working on research project, but he is the most arrogant person I’ve ever met. He never likes anything except for his opinions and everything should his way, he never cares about people he works with, all is about his league. Anyway, great post and thanks for the tips.
I realize I am one day late for the give away but I will try nevertheless. Part of me feels I am a servant leader but another part of me senses another side to my leadership with my admin team. I have things I need to learn about maximizing my relationship with my team.
This is a good lesson for me and many readers as we might one way or the other fall short of the leadership qualities. I learn indeed from this
Thought provoking article!
” Ill be chewing on this quote for awhile “arrogant people dont ask questions”.