How to reverse “Owner Arrogance”

I’ve been meditating lately on the dangerous consequences of owner arrogance and it’s origins. Here is a quick review of the three destructive outcomes of this arrogance.

The first is that once-effective business leaders become increasingly out of touch and less effective. This goes back to the comment in my previous post about business leaders being blind sided by events in their own companies and in the market because their subordinates aren’t willing to risk telling them that they’re out of touch. Over time, loyal employees become weary of not having their voices heard and, eventually, lose their loyalty to the boss.

Second- this arrogance creates the perception that the normal rules do not apply. Left unchecked, arrogance can feed a belief that a person is immune to any consequences. Arrogant executives would benefit from understanding that their actions are not invisible to the people who work for them.

The third arrogance outcome is a double whammy. Due to executive arrogance the owner’s strengths become weaknesses, and then his weaknesses become important. In other words, when the self confidence that empowers a person to make good decisions and causes him to rise to the top turns to arrogance, this can cause him to lose the support of the people who helped him along the way. And the leader’s weaknesses that might have been hidden or overlooked as he was on the rise now become evident and are no longer ignored. As an article in Fortune magazine stated, “When your arrogance exceeds your intellect you’ve got trouble.”

How to avoid the “owner arrogance” pitfall

So, how can you avoid the pitfalls of arrogance and yet continue to push the boundaries of self-confidence? Start by celebrating your successes. But, do it with the people who helped you achieve them. Keep in mind that success is never achieved in a vacuum. It is always achieved with the help of other people. Even the most brilliant scholars and the highest achievers in life have to sharpen their skills on or with someone else. Take the time to recognize and thank these people for their contributions.

Also, take a look at how the financial and human resources in your company are allocated. Do you invest your money in things that will produce a return on your capital and continue to help your business grow—things like purchasing and maintaining equipment, tools, and buildings? Or, do you use the company’s cash to buy “entitlement toys”—items that bring little value to the company but might give you an inflated sense of importance?

How about your people? Do you invest in training and professional development opportunities for them? Do you invest in hiring the most talented people available because they’ll challenge you to stretch outside your comfort zone? Or do you continue to draw from the bottom of the employment pool—not because these are the only people available, but because it allows you to stay within your comfort zone?

Finally, pay close attention to how often your people disagree with you. And I don’t mean gently disagree. I’m talking about disagreements that hold you accountable for your actions and force you to think through your opinions and positions. If nobody’s disagreeing with you, is it really because you’re that much more brilliant than everyone else? Or is it because they feel it’s just not worth the effort?

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates

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