Headlines this week led me to consider the difference between confidence and arrogance.
Here’s what I came up with:
Four people walk into a meeting.
The anxious one walks in worried that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and everyone else is going to see it.
The confident one walks in pretty sure she knows what she’s talking about, but imagines she’ll learn something from everyone else in the room.
The arrogant one walks in certain that he knows what he’s talking about, and everyone else better agree.
The narcissistic one walks in sure he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but he’ll bluster and cover so no one else ever sees the deep flaw he keeps hidden.
You’ve been in this meeting, haven’t you?
You know, on one level it can be kind of fun to be arrogant. People might stand up when you walk into the room, and you might get your way, and no one ever talks back to you.
As they say: It’s good to be king.
But this is precisely how 100% of scandals happen. People do what they think they are supposed to be doing even if it’s ethically icky because no one has ever explicitly said, “Don’t do that.” Nothing remotely resembling challenges to the arrogant authority is allowed – no back talk, remember?
That arrogance of leadership does not build… anything, with the exception of hundreds and hundreds of negative stories, and a ton of unhappiness.
Confidence, however, inspires debate within a team – which provides insight and perspectives to shape a stronger decision or choice.
True confidence engenders the kind of loyalty that is not blind, but is built upon high regard – high mutual regard. That’s the kind of loyalty which lasts.
And it’s the kind of loyalty which weeds out arrogant bad actors on the team. Quickly.
It’s the kind of confidence born of a leader’s willingness be known as a person, and to ask questions – sometimes, hard questions – and to keep an open mind. It’s born of realizing that each of us brings something to the table, and it’s worth knowing what that something is.
Confidence is also found in a willingness to be wrong, and an awareness that we’ve been through hard things before and we will likely face hard things again.
And it all will be OK.
Now, let me ask you – if you walked into the meeting, who would you be?
Is that who you want to be?
If not, there’s one thing you can start doing to edge toward confidence and away from those destructive roles. Just one thing. One little thing.
When you find yourself in that meeting, ask a question. And ask it with an open heart and an open mind. Then you’ll be the confident one.
[And if you don’t think of yourself as a “leader”, feel free to substitute the word “parent”, or “neighbor”, or “human”, as you see fit. You’ll find it still works.]