The confidence conundrum
By Gene Kamena, Air War College faculty
/ Published January 18, 2013
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- -- People want to follow leaders who are self-assured. Few of us find value in working for or being led by those who are unsure of their own abilities or decisions. Confidence on the part of a leader, typically gained through experience and validation of technical and professional ability, inspires trust and certainty in others.
Are you a confident leader? If you are, caution is in order because the line that separates confidence from arrogance is, indeed, thin. It is easy for people to think of themselves as confident, while at the same time considered arrogant by others. How can you tell if you have crossed into arrogant territory?
Arrogance builds over time as one's experience, rank and longevity increase. Acts of arrogance usually begin with diminutive episodes of inconsideration, for instance keeping others waiting for a meeting. Sometimes tardiness is unavoidable, but the telltale sign of an arrogant leader is that no apology is forthcoming.
Other indications that you might be arrogant include:
You no longer think of yourself a part of the team. You see yourself as better than other members of the team. In fact, the team is there to do your bidding, execute your decisions and meet your needs. When leaders become arrogant, they exercise power over people, not with people.
You display little patience with people who do not have the same level of knowledge that you possess on any given topic.
You tend to dismiss others, do not listen carefully and are inclined to talk and direct rather than listen.
You see yourself as the smartest and hardest working person in the organization. Others continually disappoint and fall short of your expectations. You have forgotten from whence you came.
Other people's schedules and time matter little to you. You tend to keep subordinates waiting, and when you do arrive, you are prone to strut into the room as if it is expected that others wait for your arrival.
You have a habit of belittling people in front of the group. You see it as harmless fun, but bystanders are glad it is not them upon whom you have fixed your sights.
You indulge in exceptions to standards and policies. At first, there are only minor infractions, but as your arrogance mounts, so does the leeway you afford yourself.
If some or all of the above resonates or hits a little too close to home for your liking, chances are you are showing arrogant tendencies or you are an arrogant leader. The best remedy for arrogance is a large dose of self-awareness and humility.
To guard against arrogance, consider beginning each day by remembering how you prefer to be treated, that it is okay to apologize and that arrogance leads to a sense of entitlement. Nothing good happens when you think yourself special and or exempted from the rules. The line between arrogance and confidence is indeed thin.