If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.Carl Lewis
Recently, I sat in on one of the sales meetings to discuss some company initiatives planned for 2019. The sales meetings are recorded because typically someone can’t make it for one reason or another. This allows them to go back at a later time to watch and listen in to the topics of discussion.
The meeting was a little under an hour. The following day I watched the presentation. I was floored how fast I was talking. The interaction with the team was good. I was really excited by the topics we were covering, and really confident in my message. As I was listening though, a thought drifted into my mind. “Do I come off as confident or arrogant?”
I’ve been around plenty of people I’ve thought of as arrogant. They’re a picture I sure wouldn’t want for myself. I also realize an arrogant person likely never sees themselves as arrogant. I decided to give some self review of my past; see what history has shown me about myself and how I operate. How do others see me as a person and leader, especially those that aren’t around me very often.
As I sat and contemplated this, my first stop was the Google machine. “What is the difference between confidence and arrogance?” The first page to pop up was a blog post by author Scott Berkun (scottberkun.com). His view is, “an arrogant person only feels smart if someone else feels stupid. Their sense of self depends on thinking less of someone else. They insist on correcting other people’s flaws. Arrogance is about intent – it’s when ability is used to look down on others.”
Boy, I sure hope that’s not what others think when I speak. I don’t feel better about myself by putting others down. But the problem with this view is it’s shown through the eye of the arrogant; it’s not quite as easy to tell intent when you are the one talking and unsure what others are “hearing.”
I checked Wikipedia for confidence. “Confidence has a common meaning of a certainty about handling something, such as work, family, social events, or relationships. Some have ascribed confidence as a state of being certain either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective.”
This feels more like me. But again, this is what is in someone’s own head. It’s the “why” in your actions. This isn’t what someone else is thinking about you and how you come off. So definitions on their own really don’t finish the process. It doesn’t help explain intent without being inside the person’s head.
I’m feeling pretty good I fall in line of confident over arrogant when it comes to my personal intent. I’m still not sure if others see it that way too. I started thinking about verbal intent and action and empathy. I used to get “beat up” a lot because I started my conversations with, “this might be a dumb idea, but…” Looking back, I now know why I did that so often. It was almost never that I didn’t believe in myself or my idea. It was almost always because others often didn’t believe in me or my ideas for all sorts of reasons. I was too young… I didn’t have the right experience… I was a family member at work so I just didn’t understand “the real world…” Even when I first started working full time, I wanted authority to make decisions. What I did over time was always focus on accountability for myself and those around me. It actually hurt me several times, where I took accountability for results others deemed not good enough or not giving the best results possible.
Accountability, I think, comes from experience and being willing to try a lot of different things, and being ok with the fact that sometimes things won’t work out. If you are not willing to go out on a limb and try something, you don’t need to be held accountable for the end results – good or bad. Accountability helps define you, and shows the difference between confidence and arrogance. This is what makes me a great leader (IMO… maybe a little arrogant). Accountability doesn’t mean I have to follow every task and action happening. I need to be held accountable for the results of those actions happening around me. See the difference? I feel an arrogant person would follow the action all through the process, as no one would be able to do it better. I feel I fall under confidence, as I have the confidence in others to follow through and complete the work. I’m still accountable for the results of that person’s work.
Leadership styles and management techniques have been extensively written about. There’re bookshelves stocked full of these. The thing these books seem to miss from my point of view is a key factor. You can’t just read a book and be a leader. I don’t know if you change who you are at your core. I think these books help those who already are on the right path of leadership. They enhance what you already know. If you were arrogant, my guess is you wouldn’t bother reading these type of books – you already know everything, right?
The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.Mark Twain
I’ve always wanted to lead and take the responsibility that goes along with it. When something is done or proposed, I typically don’t want to be involved more than being able to contribute to the end results turning out well and falling into my areas of talent. The results of the project speak to the team, and in turn reflect on me. The important thing is no matter what happens, ultimately I am the one who will take the blame if things go south. The team that did the project will take all the glory. I’m ok with that. Simon Sinek stated it best, “Being a leader comes at great personal sacrifice. Remember, you are not in charge, you are responsible for those in your charge. That means when everything goes right, you have to give away all the credit, and when everything goes wrong you have to take all the responsibility. That sucks right?”
I think that’s the right way to look at it though, if you want to build a team for the long-term. You can’t accomplish great things if you think you need to do all the work. You’ll never have time to find the next great thing. Those I lead, they make sure everything we are doing is helping us get to that next great thing because they make sure the ship is sailing away from any current danger. The results speak of the progress, and if/when things don’t go well, it’s my accountability to everyone working there.
So, to bring this around full circle to the original question; ” Do I come off arrogant or confident?” From my quick review, I’m going to say probably arrogant to those who don’t know me well, because of the thin line that separates the two types of personalities, and I’m guessing overall people would look at someone in my position and judge a person in that manner. You have to spend a little more time with me to know I’m actually really confident. You’d have to see, I give away as much credit as possible, I tip pretty well, I definitely don’t feel I’m always the one who’s right (even when I am :)), or that I have to be the smartest one in a room. Those things you would only know being around me for more than just an ancillary conversation or a couple of meetings. These things only show their face over an extended period. But I’m confident that’s ok.