Bloomberg Businessweek recently featured an article by Alaina Love about the cost of arrogant leadership.
Arrogance exacts a heavy toll by eroding the most valuable assets of your business, all of which eventually impact the bottom line; leadership effectiveness, innovative thinking, employee investment and intrinsic motivation, customer relationships and more. Arrogance is a key ingredient for the kind of systemic self destruction that created our Great Recession.
As an example of sabotage-by-arrogance, Love cites a rising star employee at a multinational corporation who one day resigned. He was on the cusp of achieving his dream job, groomed for any of four VP level positions, and the executives were stunned. Here’s why he quit:
“I cannot sit idly by while this company trades the future for quarter-to-quarter results. We’re not positioning ourselves for ongoing success, and I just don’t think this way of operating is sustainable. I’ve done everything I can to convince leadership we should adopt a different approach, but they’re not listening. They won’t even sit down long enough to learn about the suggestions I have for changing things. I want out before this house of cards collapses.”
Love gives 12 signs that indicate arrogance is crippling your organization:
(Follow the links for deeper dives into many of these topics on other Succincity posts, if you’re interested.)
1. You hire and develop great people but then fail to listen to their input if it is nonconformist thinking.
2. Your company rationalizes its mistakes instead of learning from them.
4. Your company lobbies against sound regulations because they may add complexity to the way you operate.
5. Your leaders pat themselves on the back when the company succeeds financially, even though success derived from market forces rather than actual performance.
6. Your leaders believe the company can’t fail.
7. Your leaders dictate more than they listen.
8. The company underestimates its competition and minimizes the success competitors achieve.
9. Access to top leadership in the company requires wading through multiple layers of bureaucracy.
10. There is a focus on amassing the trappings of success: large, well-appointed offices, chauffeured cars, private jets, and the like.
11. Your company doesn’t become a partner in a merger; it takes over, losing the value of the culture and learning the other organization might have provided.
12. Your company suffers from “Not Invented Here Syndrome,” believing it holds the monopoly on great ideas, so that innovations coming from the outside (“Not Invented Here”) are deemed to hold little value.
No matter where you are on the professional spectrum, whether small business owner or corporate heavyweight, I encourage you to reflect on this inventory. Which of these indicators sound like your company?
Humility to the Rescue
Our strengths, when thrown out of balance, become our weaknesses. Self confidence is an absolute must-have for successful business people — especially entrepreneurs — and arrogance is its unbridled, out-of-balance, evil twin. Arrogance is like a kettle of vultures circling over all that you’ve worked to build. It’s the little devil sitting on your shoulder, telling you it’s okay to indulge those self-aggrandizing thoughts about your own superiority.
Thankfully, there is an antidote. Allow me to draw inspiration from Shakespeare:
But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Humility is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the arrogant moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou her maid art more wise and enduring than she.
Maintaining humility is perhaps the most difficult and important responsibility you’ll ever face in the wake of success. It requires daily diligence to remember, but oh how those efforts are rewarded; shining a bright light to guide your next steps; safeguarding your richest investments from self sabotage.