Robin Smith: Confidence vs. arrogance

Robin Smith: Confidence vs. arrogance

October 15th, 2012 By Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Books on leadership written by best-selling authors like management consultant Peter Drucker, Christian leadership coach John Maxwell and business consultant Jim Collins, among countless others, earn millions of dollars. Their writings attempt to fulfill our desire to know, embrace and implement characteristics of leadership that better prepare us for the workplace, the political arena and most any area of life.

A sampling of leadership quotes that ring true include:

• "Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes." - Peter Drucker

• "Leadership is about being a servant first." - U.S. Rep. Allen West

• "If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing." - Lady Margaret Thatcher

Without exception, the characteristic of confidence is encouraged within the realm of leadership as a mandatory ingredient. The online magazine Inc. put it this way, "Trying to teach leadership without first building confidence is like building a house on a foundation of sand. ... While the leadership community has focused on passion, communication, and empowerment, they've ignored the most basic element."

Yet, we all know the stark contrast between confidence displayed and arrogance exposed. Yeah, that obvious difference between one who possesses that self-assurance and certainty that instills trust and reliability and the one whose self-regard is a lot grander than that of others, who typically reverts to manipulation through bullying for results and is skilled in finding a parade to jump in front of to quickly assume the lead.

A favorite picture that serves to remind me of the importance of servant leadership is accompanied by the quip, "If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know it didn't get there by itself."

The confident leader knows and appreciates that she achieved success and elevation on that fence post through collaboration, team work, a commitment to others and a tireless work ethic. A confident leader is more commonly focused on the long-term benefit of building valuable relationships and a willingness to share the credit and accept the blame with an attitude of humility.

The arrogant leader, in contrast, fails to work well with others and enjoys self-promotion. She is known for her overconfidence, disregard for long-range planning, habit of cutting corners and practice of opportunism in relationships.

Whether it's politics, your workplace, your circle of friends or even family, you've already assigned names and faces to these two sets of descriptions.

I recently chatted with an ambitious individual who has very admirable and aggressive goals. When asked why his path was set on such a high and short trajectory, the very quick response was, "Well, if you run with the dogs on the dog track, you can't run with the horses." The response offered a glimpse of disregard for those who work their way up through life and a seed of arrogance sprouting a nasty root.

We tend to have a glut of societal "turtles" who falsely believe that they can fly or leap tall buildings in a single bound. Let me know if you ever come across a true flying turtle. I want to read her book.

Robin Smith, a consultant at Rivers Edge Alliance, is a wife and mother living in Hixson. She served as the Tennessee Republican Party chairman from 2007 to 2009.