How Leaders Can Be Humble in an Age of Arrogance

arrogant leader

Leadership Power

Leadership is often linked to power, and it can unfortunately also be linked with arrogance. I believe most leaders are positive people who want to use their power and influence for good. Most people don’t start a career plan with the goal to become arrogant, either. And yet it happens.

How should leaders use power? How do leaders protect against becoming arrogant? How do leaders stay humble?

As one of the early endorsers of The Leadership Killer: Reclaiming Humility in an Age of Arrogance, I had the opportunity to interact with authors Bill Treasurer and John Havlik about their work. They have known each other for decades, but they took decidedly different paths. Bill is founder of Giant Leap Consulting and has authored several books on leadership. John Havlik is a retired Navy SEAL who led special operations teams around the world for decades. The combination of civilian and military leadership experience was also an intriguing aspect to their work together. I reached out to them to talk about the important subjects raised in the book.

 

Every leader must answer this critical question: how will I use my leadership power?

 

How Leaders Effectively Use Power

How do leaders effectively use power?

It’s important to acknowledge that leadership involves the use of power to affect results. In fact, a leader is deemed successful or unsuccessful based on the magnitude and consistency of results achieved. As a leader grows in effectiveness and influence, the more power they are given to, potentially, affect more results. The leaders we admire most, and the ones we consider to be most noble, are those who use and distribute power in a way that best serves the interests of the people and teams they are charged with leading. The challenge is, though, as a leader grows in power, the more susceptible they become to the trappings of power. Emperor Palpatine, who was Darth Vader’s mentor and master in the Star Wars movies, said, “All those who gain power are afraid to lose it…even the Jedi.”

For example, in their annual report, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that of the 2700 cases of fraud across more than 100 countries, perpetrators who had worked at their organizations for more than 10 years caused six times as much financial damage (over the median loss) than fraudsters who had worked there less than one year. One interesting contributing factor is that often as a person rises through the leadership ranks, they become subject to less direct oversight, and it becomes more tempting and easier to hide crimes. In other words, when leaders abuse their power it is often because they’re convinced they won’t get caught.

 

“All those who gain power are afraid to lose it…even the Jedi.” -Emperor Palpatine

 

Signs of Misuse of Power

What are some of the signs of a leader who is misusing that power?

6 Practices to Help Leaders Grow

leadership growth

Stand Out as Leader

To stand out and make a big impact as a leader, you need to be well-versed in fundamental leadership skills.

Ron Ashkenas and Brook Manville are the authors of a new book from Harvard Business Review Press entitled The HBR Leader’s Handbook: Make an Impact, Inspire Your Organization, and Get to the Next Level.  The book is a back-to-basics primer for both aspiring and experienced leaders, which describes the fundamental leadership practices: Creating a unifying vision, shaping strategy, building a great team, driving for results, innovating for the future, and leading yourself. The authors, both respected leadership experts and consultants, based the book not only on their own experience but also on interviews with over 40 successful leaders and a review of the most enduring themes and seminal articles that have appeared in Harvard Business Review in the past several decades.

 

“A leader’s role is to raise people’s aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there.” -David Gergen

 

Back to Basics

Why a “back to basics” leadership book now? With so many new leadership books and articles every year, why a new Leader’s Handbook from Harvard Business Review?

Brook:  We wrote this book to give the pendulum of “leadership” a needed push back towards its timeless and pragmatic origins: leadership defined as achieving a significant impact by building an organization of people working toward a common goal.

In recent years, leadership as a discipline has expanded to include not just a lot of gimmicky and ephemeral concepts but also a wide variety of basic self-improvement techniques: how to make checklists to order your day, how to stand before an audience to project authority, how to resist the temptations of too much social media. Such advice can be helpful but can distract rising professionals from the bigger picture of why leadership ultimately matters and what they should aspire to.  We wanted to take leadership back to its historical meaning and show would-be leaders the value of tried and true practices that can help them make a real difference in whatever they are trying to accomplish with other people.

In addition, getting back to the fundamentals, as we write in our book, will heal several myths or misconceptions that have arisen about leadership: That there’s only one “model” of leadership, based on specific traits and behaviors; that leadership is only about one’s self and character, and not building, inspiring, and aligning an organization; that leadership is so different from “management” that leaders don’t have to understand operations and deliver regular results; that leadership no longer matters in a world of networks and less-hierarchical enterprises. Successful leaders, through history and into the most productive organizations today, demonstrate otherwise.

 

“Dreaming big and having the courage to pursue those dreams – despite the risk – is essential for leaders.  But you also need to get others to share your dreams, vision, and purpose.” -Ron Ashkenas, Brook Manville

 

6 Practices to Help Leaders Grow