A common question I like to ask my clients to ponder is: Where does your arrogance lie?
It's something I use personally if I catch myself being judgmental, angry or a tad too full of myself.
Recently I was sitting on a train getting progressively more agitated as a group of young people played their music loudly and yelled to each other with expletive-laden language.
As I sat I considered how my own teenage girls would behave on the train and haughtily congratulated myself in the thought of them sitting, well- mannered not bothering anyone. What I didn't reflect upon, aside from the possibility that maybe I was wrong, was that I was comparing two people's lives that I knew very well with people that I didn't know at all. Who was I to pass judgment on these kids who were probably doing the best they could at that point in their lives.
I missed an opportunity to have a better experience on the train that day and I wasn't even aware of my choices.
So with my new found awareness I asked myself retrospectively: Maree, where did your arrogance lie that day? My response: My arrogance lay in my belief that I knew best. In reality I knew very little indeed.
It reminds me of a client, a senior leader in a large organisation, who shared a story from his younger years when he decided to terminate an employee because she was taking an increasing number of days off and her quality of work was poor. Some months later he heard the employee had passed away from a terminal illness. When I asked my client where his arrogance lay, the response was: At the time I was only interested in the results, not the person. I never considered alternative options. I just thought she was lazy and had a bad attitude so I let her go and she never objected.
Leadership is a tough gig. I am privileged to work with a wide variety of leaders from an array of organisations, but there is one common thread. No one can succeed without the support of others. And all of us trip over our own arrogance from time to time.
A healthy dose of arrogance is not a bad thing. As long as it is recognised, managed and understood for what it is. I’ll happily point out a client’s arrogance if they can’t or won’t see it for themselves. The problem is, I’m not with my clients 24/7 nor am I responsible for anyone else’s behaviour. We’re ultimately on our own when it comes to responsibility for our own actions. So my suggestion is to try my question on yourself: Where does your arrogance lie? And consider the implications of your response.