Confidence vs. Arrogance

confidence vs. arroganceConfidence vs. Arrogance…is it merely a question of semantics? I think not. While confidence can be mistaken for arrogance, and vice-versa, they are clearly not interchangeable terms. When you think of yourself as a leader do you view yourself as having the quiet confidence of David or the boastful arrogance of Goliath? In today’s post I’ll describe the power that resides with the truly confident, as contrasted with self-destructive characteristics that plague the arrogant…

When you think of a true leader do you envision someone who displays a quiet confidence or a blatant arrogance?  In the competitive worlds of business and politics a reserved attitude of humility can often be misinterpreted as a sign of weakness. However if you’ve ever negotiated with a truly confident person who is authentically humble, you’ll find that their resolve is often much greater than the feigned confidence of the arrogant. While hubris can be a needed trait to call upon at times, to rely solely upon it as the foundation of your leadership style just doesn’t work.

Great contrasting examples of confidence vs. arrogance as it applies to leadership would be the quiet confidence of World War II Generals’ Omar Bradley and Dwight Eisenhower vs. the often outrageous arrogance of Generals’ George Patton and Douglas MacArthur. All four were great strategists and tacticians, but it was the two less grandiloquent commanders who went down in history as more highly regarded leaders. They were able to command greater loyalty and respect from peers and subordinates alike with less bravado and more humility and discernment.

The truth of the matter is that few things have inspired and motivated me over the years like the quiet confidence and humility of great leaders. I would much rather listen to the self-deprecating humor of a confident person making fun of themselves than the mean spirited attacks of an arrogant person waged at someone else’s expense. More importantly, I would much rather work for, or along side of, the understated than the overstated. Those professionals that have self respect, and demonstrate a true respect for others regardless of their station in life, are much more likely to be successful over the long-term than those that use the tactics of disrespect to humiliate and intimidate.

While arrogant people can and often do succeed in business, I believe that it comes at a great personal and professional cost. Arrogance rarely results in lasting relationships built on a foundation of loyalty and trust. Rather arrogant people typically find themselves surrounded by exploitive individuals who are all to happy to ride the “gravy-train” in good times, but at the first sign of trouble all you will see is their backs as they run for the hills.

The confident also succeed in business, but not at the expense of others as do the arrogant. You’ll find confident leaders have broader spheres of influence, attract better talent, engender more confidence, and earn more loyalty and respect than do those that lead with solely with their chutzpa.

If what you’re seeking is lasting relationships, long-term success, and a better quality of life (in and out of the workplace) then you will be better served to forgo the pompous acts of the arrogant, and substitute the humility and quiet confidence displayed by true leaders.

I welcome any discussion about how either confidence or arrogance has impacted your role as a leader. Please share your thoughts in the comments below…


Image credit: Forbes

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    Ifeanyi E. Onuoha

    July 26, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Am glad to learn from great minds like you.Some humans are arrogant thinking its bravery or confidence but being to be humble and weak is a great asset.Am blessed to know you and read this post,it makes me to be on eagles wing.Thank you very much Sir,Shalom!!!.



      July 27, 2010 at 3:43 am

      Thanks for your comment and the kind words. I appreciate your perspective and obviously share your feelings with regard to the value of humility.



    July 27, 2010 at 3:55 am

    Arrogance joins condescension and patronization as a trio of abusive human practices that may gain someone the "upper hand", a victory or spoils of war/commerce, but destroy the soul of their wielder in the long run. We all need to be thoughtfully introspective and seek out trusted caring advisors to help guard against them and the hubris they produce.



      July 27, 2010 at 4:03 am

      Hi Randy:

      I am in complete concurrence with your thoughts on the subject at hand – well stated and true. Thanks for sharing Randy.



    July 27, 2010 at 6:42 am

    I agree with what you are saying !! My perspective is a Great Leader (successful and confident) counts on people power to achieve Success where as Weak Leader (financially very successful, Confident and Arrogant) counts on his individual skill and money power to achieve success.



      July 27, 2010 at 7:14 am

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rashmin. I appreciate your observations.



    July 27, 2010 at 12:53 am

    I think arrogance is a sign of lack of self esteem. Bottom-Line…



      July 27, 2010 at 7:12 am

      Hi Ramzi:

      Thanks for you comment. I agree that a lack of self esteem can certainly be a root-level driver of arrogance.


    Dr Sarah Morris

    July 27, 2010 at 7:03 am

    Great post! Often I find my executive coaching clients shy away from confidence because they fear that it equates to arrogance – and, understandably, don't want to be seen in that way! My observation, therefore, is that people often confuse these very different concepts.. I agree with you Mike, they are entirely different animals. Arrogance is rooted in fear and authentic confidence in love. My experience is that when we have mastered self trust, self worth and self acceptance then we are able to spontaneously make the transition from arrogance to authentic confidence. Sarah



      July 27, 2010 at 7:15 am

      Hi Sarah:

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I particularly like your statement that "Arrogance is rooted in fear and authentic confidence in love." Well said Sarah…



    July 27, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Hello Mike
    I believe the greatest asset we could have is meekness and humility which empowers our confidence. I seldom think its better to be confident and lowly in heart because that alone can earn you the respect of your people or followers. Confidence can mislead if no understanding exist. A wise man once said when the purpose of a thing is no known abuse is inevitable which might be the case if you don't know the purpose of confidence and how to apply it. While arrogance is a display of inferiority complex and sometime for most the men its the little boy within us threatening our confidence due to childhood experience.




      July 27, 2010 at 5:58 pm

      Solid words of wisdom Oarabile…thanks for sharing.


      Tracy E. L. Poured

      July 30, 2010 at 1:43 am

      "While arrogance is a display of inferiority complex and sometime for most the men its the little boy within us threatening our confidence due to childhood experience." Strong observation, Oarabile.

      Can also be due to LACK of childhood experience … little boys lacking childhood experiences of proving capability, being acceptable and loved, feeling connected as a valuable part of a group.

    […] to Mike Myatt for his blog “Confidence vs. Arrogance.” His article got me thinking about this […]


    Paul Riccio

    November 7, 2010 at 9:40 am

    I was nauseated when I heard the delusive quote "there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance" delivered with a smug look. Obviously, that is a trite statement that arrogant people use to absolve their disdainful behavior. I now respond to this quote with "If someone were to lack generosity it would define them as greedy, as would one lacking confidence define them as arrogant. We would never say there is a fine line between generosity and greed would we?"

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