The Enemy of Everything Good

It was September 10, 2016 when I first wrote, “Everything good in leadership begins with humility.” I was proud of myself.

The enemy of everything good in leadership is arrogance. The word itself offends me. But alternatives like pride or ego have good sides. Arrogance never has a good side.

10 contrasts:

Contrast enhances understanding.

  1. Arrogance can’t listen. Confidence feels secure enough to let others talk.
  2. Dominating the meeting is arrogance. Confidence makes room for participation.
  3. Arrogance stands aloof. Confidence walks beside.
  4. Discomfort receiving feedback is arrogance. Learning is joy for confidence.
  5. Arrogance pursues position. Confidence strives for contribution.
  6. Fear of rejection is arrogance. Confidence enjoys approval but doesn’t need it.
  7. Paralyzing fear of failure is arrogance. Confidence knows that failure and learning row the same boat.
  8. Arrogance relishes being above, over, and better than. The essence of confidence is contentment with self, while acknowledging room for growth.
  9. Arrogance is thin skinned. Confidence accepts its own inconsistencies.
  10. Arrogance feeds on applause. Confidence enjoys appreciation but knows service is its own reward.

Defeat arrogance:

Arrogance wants you to think it can be defeated. But there is no ending arrogance.

Arrogant leaders see arrogance in others, but not in themselves.

Hindus bow to the divine within when they greet each other. It would be humble if you bowed to others and they didn’t bow to you. But Hindus bow to each other. It seems self-glorifying. (Other religions engage in self-glorification, too.)


Confess arrogance to a friend. Now that’s awkward. Arrogance doesn’t confess anything, except that it’s evil in others.

Arrogance loves hiding behind comfortable words like overconfidence and hates being named. Refusing to call arrogance by its rightful name protects it.

But if you’re serious about maximizing talent, developing rich relationships, and expanding your contribution, spit in the face of arrogance by confessing it.

What subtle or overt forms of arrogance do you see in leadership?

What might be done to address the sinister nature of arrogance?


I notice, while reviewing this post, that the second sentence in this post didn’t include the term arrogance.

Bonus material:

If Humility is so Important, Why are Leaders so Arrogant? (HBR)

Are you Arrogant or Confident (Productive Leaders)

How Leaders can be Humble in an Age of Arrogance (Skip Prichard)

What’s in the Leadership Freak Complete Works of July 2020: (PDF)