What’s wrong with Arrogance?


When you are accused of being arrogant there are three possibilities:

  • you are actually arrogant
  • your behavior is being perceived as arrogant
  • the person making the assessment is, as usual, wrong about you or the definition of the word arrogant and unqualified to make the assessment.

“This is an impressive crowd: the Have’s and Have-more’s. Some people call you the elites. I call you my base.” – President George W. Bush speaking at a Republican Party $5,000 per plate fundraiser.

Is President Bush’s comment arrogant?  Let’s check the definition:

“Arrogance has been defined as an overbearing pride evidenced by a superior manner toward inferiors, acting with  inordinate self-esteem  or a sense of being better than others”

By the definition of arrogance, it is not. He does not refer to himself, he flatters those in attendance, it is wry humor and undeniably truthful. Yet, this quote appears on the internet in many places as “the” penultimate example of arrogance. It may not actually be arrogant but it is perceived as such.

I was recently told by a superior that I was arrogant. The person who told me could provide no examples or  first hand comments when I asked for some context. However,  understanding and then fixing this is still a challenge for me to be expediently undertaken.  

Is it style?

I do have a wide range of  influencing styles that I use dependent on the situation and in some cases specifically choose to be more directive and confident in a situation where group-hugs would not necessarily achieve the timely objective the client requires. 

“Yes. Based on my experience in four other situations similar to this, I have recommended these remediation activities and similarly would suggest that you initiate those activities immediately.”

“While I have seen this issue in four other situations that are similar, your team would like to be fully comfortable with the direction chosen and therefore I think we should approach this incrementally with the formation of a working group to further analyze the situation and make  a joint recommendation for next steps. Do you agree that we should initiate a workgroup? Who do think the stakeholders should be? ….”

Commitment in execution will always be higher with a collaborative decision-making process. If you are involved in the decision, then you will have a higher degree of ownership in the actions.  (or at least that’s the MBA theory) The process will also be slower and may result in a better, worse or the same answer. I will always ask myself  this question: “Can I afford to be collaborative?”. Perhaps a better question is:”Can I afford to not be collaborative?”

Perhaps my influencing style sometimes causes a perception of arrogance?

Is it a lack of tolerance for stupidity bad ideas?

When I am asked to mentor someone, I have been told that I am a pretty good mentor. I try to show patience, expect errors and can provide sensitive coaching to help the mentee achieve their goals. Here the relationship is defined and I believe I can play the part well.

When I am in a client meeting and someone says something stupid sub-optimal,  I can usually manipulate the discussion to get the idea off the table without hurting anyone’s feelings. But not always…

In internal meetings within my own team, I always value time higher than someone’s ego. While with a client I will discuss a really bad idea for a period of time just to dispose of it gracefully, I usually do not offer the same consideration for my colleagues.

“But Ian, There’s no such thing as a bad idea!”

Let’s not kid ourselves. Yes, there are! There’s lots of really stupid bad ideas tabled in meetings every day across the globe and as consultants you and I need to determine how much time to invest in disposing of them.

Perhaps my tolerance for entertaining bad ideas is too low?

Is it just that I am arrogant?

I have :

  • done over $3 Billion in projects,
  • worked throughout the globe
  • been a CEO, a CIO, Partner, Chief Architect, Enterprise Architect, Independent Consultant and Entrepreneur
  • managed teams of hundreds of resources
  • led multiple projects of hundreds of millions of dollars
  • managed the most successful SI practice in the history of a Global System’s Integrator
  • made millions doing it
  • designed enterprise solutions and systems that are “world-class” that process transactions for billions of dollars, save lives and have incalculable benefits for a “Greener” world.
  • worked with or for every major consulting company on the planet
  • I came from the “right” University
  • I now work for Microsoft. (Itself a paragon of  humility)

So perhaps I am allowed a little arrogance. Some people come to meetings and offer opinions and recommendations on topics that they have limited knowledge of. I do not. When I provide input, it is considered and it will be based on experience. When I tell people that they ignore my advice at their own peril… it is however considered arrogant.

Things to work on…

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