How Successful Leaders Suffer from the Sin of Arrogance
You’ve worked hard and you’re a successful leader by all measures of how to measure success at work.
Everyone knows you’re a star. But they know something else as well: You’ve got a huge ego.
Don’t worry, success and egos go together, especially when examining how to measure success at work. As human beings gain power, our egos tend to grow as well.
But here’s the catch: while success will make you famous, your ego can be your own worst enemy, as a growing ego inevitably leads to what I’ve dubbed the Sin of Arrogance.
The Sin of Arrogance, as I’ve seen over the years, causes leaders to fail miserably. At first, the Sin lurks under the radar. But then it creeps out in typical leadership situations: meetings, projects management, or decision making.
Let’s take decision making. I’ve witnessed how the Sin can lead to completely illogical decisions on countless occasions. It goes like this: the Sin causes general confusion, which results in a distortion of reality. Armed with this distortion, leaders charge into situations, completely confident in their courses of action. Along the way, they develop immunity to the advice, opinions, or warnings of their team, often sounding claims, such as, “I know better than everyone else”. The decision flops.
But unfortunately, such leaders rarely see the Sin as the cause of their failed decisions. Instead, they’ll attribute flops to anything else that comes to mind. Rinse and repeat a few times, and you’ve got what I call toxic leadership.
And be sure that no leader is immune. The common denominator among leaders from all walks of life is that they’ve achieved their status based on their success and contribution to their organizations, no matter the size or type.
And every leader who’s finally achieved their coveted status must deal with the same questions: “Now that I’m a leader, will my new status help propel me even further?” “How will my new status influence my daily lives? My values? The way I work?” “What does it mean for me to be a leader?”Am I “above” everyone else?”
In my practice, thousands of leaders have answered these questions with one common answer: “Nothing has changed for me; I’ve just got more responsibilities.”
But when I’ve asked their subordinates or peers, I’ve gotten a completely different response. Without exception, they feel a significant change in the way their leaders behave, see themselves, and relate to the environment.
But of course, even if faced with such feedback, leaders will deny any change. And even if, deep down inside, the leader believed there might be a grain of truth, they’d justify the “slight change” by saying things such as “the role requires it”, “it’s healthy to keep some distance”, or “those people are just jealous”.
The problem here is that such denial will keep the Sin of Arrogance alive and moving, though possibly at a slow, undetectable pace.
Before I close, I want to ask successful leaders to stop and take note of how easily the Sin of Arrogance can appear - especially following success. Yes, leaders, it’s almost unavoidable, but it can certainly be dealt with.
Look out for my next post, in which I’ll continue to explore how the Sin of Arrogance negatively affects decision making.
And always remember:
Great managers are made. Not born.
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