2 Dangers for Arrogant Leaders
I grew up in an anti-authoritarian time, the 60’s, and lived in a self-reliant culture of farmers in Central Maine.
High self-reliance combined with an anti-authoritarian spirit lends itself to arrogance.
#1. Arrogant leaders are self-reliant:
Arrogant leaders turn healthy self-reliance into refusing to ask for help. Arrogance looks down its nose at people who ask for help.
I love giving help. I don’t ask for help.
Not seeking help holds you back. I had to learn that people who seek help aren’t weaklings.
Truth: People who seek help go further than Lone Ranger types.
#2. Arrogant leaders believe they’re special:
I thought I was ‘special’ when I was a kid. I remember going to a country fair in East Corinth, Maine. I must have been 6 or 7. Candle pin bowling was one of the games you could pay to play. I paid and threw gutter balls. I sat on the edge of the bowling alley and pouted until they let me try again for free.
I still grapple with thinking I’m special – above the rules. On a recent hospital visit I gave myself permission to drive past a line of cars waiting for valet parking. I waited in line awhile, but I couldn’t see anyone parking cars.
I decided to drive past the line of people who waited and slipped my truck into a parking spot. I went in and visited my friend. There was no ticket on my truck when I came out.
I drove home feeling pretty good until I reflected on the type of person who thinks they’re better than others.
Truth: Making exemptions for yourself alienates people.
Symptoms of Arrogance:
- Interrupting people.
- Disinterest in other’s opinions.
- Over-competitiveness – being argumentative. Needing to be right.
- Defensiveness – taking failure, criticism, or negative feedback personally.
What symptoms of arrogance do you see in leaders? In yourself?
How Humble Leadership Really Works
Edgar and Peter Schein on Humble Leadership
The Best Bosses Are Humble Bosses
Ouch but thanks for an excellent post that illustrates the dangers and characteristics of arrogant leadership. Especially the point about arrogance alienating others.
Ouch, ooch, each… I don’t like this mirror!
Thanks, I needed it.
Oh boy – I grew up in same time frame, same farming environment (Midwest) and see so much of me in this post. Thanks for the wake-up call. I’ll be doing a little self-analysis today.
Dan the other aspect of your post is asking for help. Somehow in my work I was always willing to ask. I made sure I understand the assignment and goals first and thought of possible next steps but I asked others for input or guidance. Would not have advanced without asking. Brad
If skipping the (non-moving) valet parking line to self-park is the height of your arrogance, then you are doing well!
I have often trod the thin line between self-reliance and arrogance and went on to regret a bad step or two. Thanks for the timely reminder to be on guard.
This made me think about your recent post on managing entitled people: https://leadershipfreak.blog/2022/06/14/10-ways-to-manage-entitled-people-in-the-real-world/
Interesting how language changes when we talk about them (those entitled employees) vs. ourselves (arrogant.) Not sure that there is any lesson in that language difference except to say that there is a connection. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
This is eye opening because I believe I do both, but in a different way that is portrayed in this post. I do ask for help, but only from a very few leaders of whom I have trust and confidence that was built throughout years of work. Perhaps this is creating arrogant leaders in my circle because they feel special to be included in projects. I’m going to work on this. With an influx of new peers, I can’t help but realize I have been excluding them.
I also think there may be 3 levels of arrogant leaders. The first tier involves those of us that veer into arrogance but make adjustments to get back on track. The next tier includes leaders that perhaps don’t hear feedback or do not have applicable self-assessment skills to know they are arrogant. The worst leaders belong to the tier of individuals that know they are arrogant or consistently show the symptoms but refuse to improve.
Dan – good stuff here. I grew up with parents who loved me, which instilled in me a great degree of confidence. I wrestle constantly with the balance between self-confidence and arrogance. It is humbling to see how easily it tips in the wrong direction.