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Home » Blog » The Enemy of Effective Leadership

The Enemy of Effective Leadership- Arrogance

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

Rick Warren

Humility is so misunderstood, it frequently receives special attention. We have a tendency to view humility as excessively modest, as a flaw rather than a strength. However, as Karina Fabian writes in Business News Daily, “Humility simply means understanding one’s own strengths and weaknesses and appreciating the strengths of others”.

So the question is should a leader be humble or arrogant?

Few debates are never-ending. In the end it becomes all about striking a balance.

The humble/arrogant side of a leader is the discussion of the same category. There are just no favourites to pick.

Humility As A Trait Of A Leader

Humility is a central concept in any discussion or definition of leadership. It appears in books and articles, as well as at leadership conferences held throughout the world. However, it is clear that many leaders are resisting the concept—at least for their own benefit.

A significant reason leaders resist humility is the perception that it comes across as weak—and no one wants to be perceived as weak. That same fear of being perceived as weak motivates arrogant leaders to prioritise their own personal agendas over organisational goals and the common good. On the other hand, those who lead with humility work to support, inspire, and develop others. They impart the best of what they know and assist others in achieving. It is the pinnacle of strength.

A humble leader also realises the best way to improve is through constructive criticism, and they actively seek feedback from any source.

When leaders demonstrate an awareness that they are not perfect and do not possess all the answers, they foster an inclusive culture in which everyone feels valued for their contributions. This leadership style instills confidence in team members, empowers them to innovate, and ensures that the team’s efforts are always directed toward accomplishing organisational goals rather than jostling for position.

The Humility-Arrogance Contrast

According to conventional leadership wisdom, we cannot be both humble and confident at the same time. Too many executives believe that competition—between companies, teams, and individuals—precludes them from recognising or practising humility. While arrogance believes in self-aggrandizement and power, humility believes in bringing out the inherent strength of others. However, every genuinely confident leader possesses a core of humility. They do not have to lead with arrogance in order to capture the public’s attention.

The primary distinction between humility and arrogance is that a humble leader is concerned with serving others, whereas an arrogant leader is concerned with being served.

Mike Jett in The Leadership Circle’s blog says, “The enemy of everything good in leadership is arrogance – the word itself stings. Alternatives like pride or ego have good sides, but arrogance never has a good side. Although we want to avoid arrogance, we must be careful to not let this hinder our confidence. As leaders, we need to instill confidence in our Associates, as confidence helps eliminate fear and fear prevents people from achieving greatness.”

He made a list of contrasting points, such as-

  1. Arrogance cannot listen. Confidence does not need to talk.
  2. Arrogance dominates the meeting. Confidence encourages participation.
  3. Arrogance stands aloof. Confidence walks beside.
  4. Arrogance is discomfort when receiving feedback. Confidence is learning for joy.
  5. Arrogance pursues position. Confidence strives for contribution and collaboration.
  6. Arrogance is fear of rejection. Confidence enjoys approval, but doesn’t need it.
  7. Arrogance is paralyzing fear of failure. Confidence knows that failure and learning row the same boat.
  8. Arrogance relishes being above, over, and better than. 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.

The arrogant leaders’ tendency for dominating and controlling others stems from an innate desire to win.

This is because such leaders’ overriding ambition to win at all costs is based on the tacit assumption that they must be losing if they are not winning. According to psychological research, humility is most closely associated with sincerity, modesty, fairness, truthfulness, unpretentiousness, and authenticity.

And there is nothing ingrained in humility that makes it incompatible with strength and courage.

Quotes to live by-

“The humbleness of a warrior is not the humbleness of the beggar. The warrior lowers his head to no one, but at the same time, he doesn’t permit anyone to lower his head to him. The beggar, on the other hand, falls to his knees at the drop of a hat and scrapes the floor to anyone he deems to be higher; but at the same time, he demands that someone lower than him scrape the floor for him.”

                                                       Carlos Castaneda

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”

                                                      ― Mahatma Gandhi

“Be careful not to mistake insecurity and inadequacy for humility! Humility has nothing to do with the insecure and inadequate! Just like arrogance has nothing to do with greatness!”

                                                       ― C. JoyBell C.

“True humility does not know that it is humble. If it did, it would be proud from the contemplation of such a fine virtue.”

                                                      ― Martin Luther

“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is especially true of humility.”

                                                        ― C.S. Lewis