The Fine Line Between Confidence and Arrogance
Old news: People are attracted to confident leaders and turned off by arrogant ones.
We respond very differently to a leader who believes in themselves versus a leader who fixates on their own self-importance. In popular culture, we often hear the expression, “There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.” But for leaders, the worlds of confidence and arrogance are a galaxy apart.
Arrogance reflects a belief that you are above or better than other people. This leaks out as disrespect. Arrogance expresses this contempt through statements of superiority, conceit, and condescension and through actions of insensitivity, rudeness, and imposition. Arrogance is often demeaning, at least in the eyes of those who endure it.
To prove they are better than everyone else, arrogant leaders love to tell others how great they are. This incessant self-promotion camouflages a deep insecurity. On the inside, arrogant leaders believe others think less of them than they deserve. To confront this perceived injustice, arrogant leaders grab for glory, pushing less important others out of the way.
In contrast, confidence is knowing no one is above you. This self-belief displays itself in treating everyone as peers. Confident leaders are convinced that great work speaks for itself. As such, they generally downplay their own importance and give others the room to shine and demonstrate their abilities.
The self-assurance of a confident leader comes from an appreciation of their own talents and abilities. Pride in past achievement contributes to a feeling of self-worth and the desire to achieve even more. But, in the pursuit of greater results, confident leaders want to learn from others and include them in their journey.
How leaders express their self-confidence creates the view others have of them. When they cross the line and make it exclusively about themselves, they treat people as inferior and strike the chord of arrogance. When they make it point to engage others as peers who are important to listen to and learn from, confidence emanates from everything they say and do. The signs between them are telltale. As Aagam Shah wisely noted, “Confidence smiles. Arrogance smirks.”