There are various attitudes and behaviors specific to individual leaders that, if present, need challenging. Arrogance is high on this list. Arrogant leadership is toxic to an organization. It looks like strength but is a debilitating weakness. If you have ever worked with an arrogant leader you know what a low level of tolerance and respect this type has for others. Arrogant leaders make the fundamental error of believing they are qualitatively different from their followers. Failing to perceive their commonality, they lack the spiritual requirement for a life of service. Instead, they build their careers on manipulation.
A courageous follower who is working closely with an arrogant leader must try to contain the effects of the leader’s behavior, as difficult as this is to do. Arrogant leaders often denigrate supporters to each other, creating an environment in which no one knows where they stand and everyone is trying to curry favor. We may be tempted to collude with this denigration if it confirms our position as part of the inner circle. But we must realize that the denigration will soon be turned against the inner circle itself if it hasn’t already.
We might attempt a containment strategy along these lines:
Get the leader’s agreement that it would be good to build a stronger team; from his feeling of superiority, the leader will probably agree he needs a stronger team.
Get the leader’s agreement that denigrating each other weakens the team.
Then exact a simple, but critical, commitment from the leader: that he will not demean team members to each other.
By curtailing demeaning comments, the whole atmosphere surrounding the leader can change. The fires of arrogance are not continuously being stoked.
Once we have an agreement, we can challenge the leader to honor it by expressing our discomfort with the denigration when it occurs:
“________’s not here to clarify her actions so why don’t we hold off discussing that.”
“That may not hold up under closer scrutiny. Let me investigate and report back on that.”
“I’m not comfortable impugning their intentions. Let’s focus on what we need from them.”
“We’ve agreed not to harp on our own people’s shortcomings. What is our responsibility as senior management for the performance problems?”
This is an instance in which, by changing behavior, we can sometimes change the underlying attitudes. In the interest of the common purpose, it is worth trying.