How to deal with an arrogant leader

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Most of us have labored with (and at occasions for) people who find themselves inferior to they suppose they’re—the very definition of arrogant. There’s no scarcity of arrogant bosses on this planet. This actuality might be defined by three main analysis findings:

  1. People have a normal tendency to overestimate their talents and executives are (nonetheless) predominantly human (though we hear that AI bosses are imminent). Generally known as the Lake Woebegone impact, most individuals overestimate their very own expertise throughout quite a lot of domains.
  2. As observers, we’re susceptible to mistaking confidence for competence, which explains why individuals who seem assertive, overconfident, and even arrogant, might be mistaken for particularly proficient people, and thus chosen for management roles (in each private and non-private sector organizations).
  3. The extra deluded persons are about their very own expertise and abilities, the better it’s for them to fool others into pondering they’re extra succesful than they’re truly.

These findings clarify why arrogant bosses are way more frequent than reasonable, humble bosses. But, administration books and articles preserve celebrating the concept of humble leaders. 

Is that this wishful pondering? 


No. Our need to work for people who find themselves not unjustifiably happy with themselves, and never unaware of their limitations, is rational. When arrogant people are in charge, they have a tendency to disengage, alienate, and diminish others. Their groups expertise an absence of psychological safety, their efficiency suffers, and their organizations (or nations) pay a excessive worth. Appreciable analysis demonstrates that humility is rational and constructive.

But, we’ve got all seen it over and over: A charismatic, entertaining, and typically even pathologically narcissistic, individual will get elevated to a management position, solely to be revealed as arrogant, deluded, and entitled—to everybody else’s detriment. All too many politicians embody this dangerous sample, however it’s additionally prevalent within the non-public sector.  

Analysis suggests additional that conceitedness will increase the propensity to interact in corrupt and antisocial behavior. What do Harvey Weinstein, Bernie Madoff, and Jeffrey Epstein have in frequent? Delusions of grandeur inhibited their self-control, restraint, and empathy whereas perpetuating their very own illusions of immunity to penalties, additional fueling their parasitic conduct. It’s as if we people are hard-wired to fall into traps of our personal making. 

There’s a essential distinction between conceitedness and confidence. You might be assured in your skills and, in case your confidence is reasonable (i.e., aligned with your precise skills), we don’t label it “conceitedness.” By the identical token, when expertise, talent, or experience are missing, however confidence will not be, that imbalance defines conceitedness. In brief, people who find themselves proficient, deliver deep experience, or coaching and follow, or considerate deliberation concerning the challenges that lie forward, might be seen as humble. In distinction, when persons are less talented than they think, they are often seen as arrogant, overconfident, or deluded. The standard are extra probably to be efficient in confronting, and serving to others confront, actual challenges, in contrast to those that lack these qualities.

Should you occur to work for an arrogant leader, how must you deal with them (though statistically talking conceitedness is extra generally manifested in cisgender males) to reduce the hurt to you and others? Listed below are 5 options:

  1. Keep away from difficult their egos. They are going to be defensive and will retaliate. This doesn’t imply it is best to suck up to them, or exit of your means to inflate their egos: simply strive to be impartial or detached to shows of hubris.
  2. Give attention to how one can assist them. When attempting to affect/persuade them, give attention to the advantages your arguments supply to them (“If we do that, you’ll outperform different managers . . .”) relatively than attempting to make a logical or moral case (“This may work higher,” or “That is the suitable factor to do.”)
  3. Strive to keep away from being fooled by them. Don’t mistake their charisma for substance, or their confidence for competence. Be skeptical, so that you just don’t assume they’re pretty much as good as they are saying. This may prevent plenty of ache and struggling. As a substitute, keep clear-eyed and clear-headed, doing what you may to transfer the work ahead inside the scope of the position you occupy. 
  4. Should you’re comfy, be a supply of constructive suggestions. You may assist arrogant bosses perceive they’re mistaken, and assist them appropriate their views/choices, though this doesn’t come with out dangers. For instance, you may make your boss conscious of the potential dangers or adverse penalties of a proposed motion–penalties reminiscent of his/her personal boss could also be sad, purchasers could stroll away, or another potential loss to your boss’s status or profession prospects. This turns you into an ally, assuming the position of a messenger, relatively than delivering your personal view.
  5. Go work for another person. Simply know that genuinely humble bosses should not that simple to discover.

There’s a last drawback that should be famous. Vanity is self-sealing. As soon as promoted (or elected) to a place of management, leaders (via no actual fault of their very own) are much less and fewer uncovered to disconfirming knowledge. As Stanford’s Bob Sutton puts it, bosses reside in a idiot’s paradise. Dangerous information doesn’t journey up the hierarchy, individuals don’t disagree with the boss, and the state of affairs thus seems rosy from the place they sit. Normally, this illusion might be punctured by a disaster, a failure, or a scandal that appears sudden, however the truth is, will not be. The warning indicators have been in all places.  

Amy C. Edmondson, Ph.D. is the Novartis Professor of Management and Administration on the Harvard Enterprise Faculty. She has written quite a few books and articles and is greatest recognized for her analysis on psychological security, summarized in her current e-book, The Fearless Group: Creating Psychological Security within the Office for Studying, Innovation, and Progress.


Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Ph.D. is an worldwide authority in management evaluation, individuals analytics, and expertise administration. He’s the Chief Expertise Scientist at ManpowerGroup and a professor of enterprise psychology at each College School London and Columbia College. His most up-to-date e-book is Why Do So Many Incompetent Males Grow to be Leaders? (And How to Repair It).