Leadership Power Vs. Powerful Leadership


The Executive VP kicked back in his chair, put his clearly expensive shoes up on the desk and his hands behind his head. “Team work! It’s all about team work. This department is the best in the organization because it does exactly what I say. We have no place here for people who don’t play by my rules. There is one coach. If you have a different opinion, keep it to yourself. Because it’s my way or the highway.” Sound familiar?

We live in an era of self-celebration, and bravado announces our confidence.

At work, ambitious people enthusiastically self-promote in order to be singled out for promotion and stretch positions.

Yet as professor of business psychology Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic says, “Bluster and the alpha instinct often get mistaken for ability and effectiveness.” We have a large volume of evidence about the perils of hubris and, consequently, leadership failures. By the way, do take a few minutes to view the TED video linked to Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic. It’s entertaining AND quite insightful.

Pride vs Arrogance

What is the difference between pride and arrogance?

As described by Psychologists Jessica Tracy and Richard Robins in the June 2007 issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, all of the evidence supports the idea that pride comes with two very different faces. They call these two faces “authentic” pride and “hubristic” pride. Authentic pride arises when we feel good about ourselves, confident, and productive, and is related to socially-desirable personality traits such as being agreeable, conscientious, and emotionally stable. Guy Winch Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts. According to Dr. Winch, arrogance is when someone brags about oneself and then thinks that no one can do better, and that they are the best and don’t think they could ever fail at anything…pride is doing something and feeling pleased with one’s self, or feeling proud of someone else’s accomplishments.

Hubris is extreme pride and arrogance, and it occurs when those in power lose their connection to reality and vastly overestimate their capabilities. Hubristic pride tends to involve egotism and arrogance, and is related to socially undesirable traits such as being disagreeable, aggressive, having low or brittle self-esteem—and being prone to shame.

Dr. Debby Schwarz Hirschhorn an Orthodox Marriage & Family Therapist, offers three clues that point to pride rather than arrogance:

[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#F0F0F0 ” end_color=”#F0F0F0 ” border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″]

  1. First Clue: If a person knows his (or her) strengths, also knows his weaknesses, that person is exhibiting pride rather than arrogance.
  2. Second Clue: What is this person’s specialty? Perhaps his line of work entitles him to expertise. There’s nothing wrong at all with being extremely competent at what you do and being proud of what you’ve accomplished. But when you are touting your own superiority while at the same time demeaning other people along that way, that’s arrogance.
  3. Third Clue: How do most people think about the individual in question? Pride is classified as a basic and universal human emotion that is immediately recognized across cultures. If arrogance is the dark side of pride, people know an arrogant S.O.B. when they see one.[/message]

The Upside

Left unchecked, arrogant leaders can be a destructive force within an organization.

With power over their employees’ work assignments, promotion opportunities and performance reviews, arrogant bosses put subordinates in a helpless position. They do not mentor junior colleagues nor do they motivate a team to benefit the organization as a whole, contributing to a negative social workplace atmosphere.

And it’s not just arrogant bosses that cause damage. The arrogance of many corporate leaders in the last several years has led to billion-dollar losses and in some cases sent the executives to jail for illegal activities. In a recent issue of the Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, Stanley Silverman, along with researchers Russell E. Johnson, Nicole McConnell and Alison Carr, write that arrogance “has run amuck lately.” Their research shows that arrogant employees have poorer performances, create greater stress for others and their behavior is likely to create a “poisonous” atmosphere. Such problems, they write, can lead to poorer customer satisfaction and loyalty, adversely affect a team’s ability to work together and eventually hurt the bottom line.

The upside of arrogance is that thoughtful leaders can turn arrogance into authentic pride. Servant leadership theory offers five tips for changing arrogance into authentic pride:

[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#F0F0F0 ” end_color=”#F0F0F0 ” border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″]

  1. Practice humility – With diligent practice and coaching, leaders and others can learn to moderate arrogance with a strong dose of humility. The opposite of arrogance – humility – inspires loyalty and productive team work. Jim Collins, in Good to Great, talks about remarkable CEOs who sustain success through leading quietly, not charismatically, and calls them Level 5 leaders.
  2. Listen, ask questions, and collaborate – Being curious about what others think and feel will cause them to feel valued and build trust. Even when you think you have the “right answer” remain open to others solutions. You might be surprised what you will learn!
  3. Share credit and build others up – We all depend on the help and support of others to get things done. Freely and frequently recognize the contributions of others. Building others up and sharing credit will cause others to want to work with you again.
  4. Correct others only if they give you permission – Be very careful when offering critique and correction. Ask yourself if it really matters if someone has made a small mistake in grammar, facts, or reasoning; and only give feedback if it really matters and you have permission to do so.
  5. Seek–and heed–feedback – I know from painful personal experience that even when we think we are brilliant, funny, or clever, we might be off-putting to others. Ask those that you trust to give you honest feedback about your style.


David McNamee, Ph.D.http://www.foundationsforleaders.com
DAVID McNamee, Ph.D. is Producer and Host of "Leadership Moments" a radio show/podcast and President of Foundations For Leaders, an executive coaching and leadership development practice based in Portland, Oregon. David is an experienced business owner, university administrator, professor, C-Level executive, and U.S. Air Force veteran.



"Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives."


Powerful voices from around the globe that speak to our shared human experience. Add your story to our best-selling book series!



Must Read