The Canyon Between Confidence and Arrogance

By Pavan Muzumdar
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What you may consider a fine line is actually a canyon when it comes to the difference between confidence and arrogance. Yes, they may sometimes have similar traits, but that doesn’t close the gap. What sets them apart is a willingness to respond to, learn from, and make changes after mistakes are made.

Responding to a setback is different than reacting to it.

How? A reaction is something that is “knee-jerk” and done without thought. Reactions come from the unexpected and are more likely to come from an arrogant leader rather than a confident one. Arrogant leaders will expect a positive outcome, therefore when a setback occurs, an immediate need to blame, bluff, or bluster will surface. A response is a planned handling of an undesirable but potentially expected, situation. When things don’t go as planned, a confident leader has a premeditated response that leads to learning and change. Having the ability to respond requires a sophistication to manage and understand risk, whereas reaction is very much without.

Without learning, you’re standing on the wrong side of the canyon.

An arrogant leader will dismiss learning because they feel they haven’t done anything wrong; that setback was the fault of execution, not strategy, and the blame game ensues. As blame spreads, trust crumbles, leading to a company that’s anything but built on confidence. The confident leader understands that you don’t need to be the best every single time, but you do need to be willing to learn. Whether you’re learning while you feel you’re at the top of your of game or at the bottom, you’re still learning to be better in some way.

Take what you’ve learned and recalibrate.

The arrogant leader will never get to this step in the process without responding or learning. Unfortunately, risk will remain high within a company built upon arrogance. A confident leader is ready to build, rather than blame, and starts to make changes. The first attempt may have been a bust, but by listening and learning, a second chance to do things differently is done with a team who is ready to move forward with you. Over time, the cycle of learning and recalibration leads to mitigated risk and higher trust within (and for) the company.

Pavan Muzumdar Managing Director