By Chris Gandy
Sure, none of us are perfect and we all have our foibles of various descriptions. But, I find it interesting though that when I come across a person with a pretty out there bad behaviour, I invariably encounter two or three others in a short space of time with the same behavioural flaws. I guess poor behaviour tunes up your radar to pick up other people similarly operating inappropriately.
This week, for me, has seemed to be “Arrogance Week“.
In various contexts I came across people who, to paraphrase Lisa Gardner, are:
“So damned arrogant, if they ever met God, the first thing they would say is what are you doing in my chair?”
Typically I find arrogant people to be self defensive and fierce upholders of the status quo. Because they are never wrong they can never learn. If in leadership roles their behaviour can be very detrimental to the organisational culture and suffocate any desire for change. Because it is not broken there is no need to fix it!
You know the type of people I am talking about. We often come across them; we tut tut, shake our heads and move on after meeting them – comfortable in the knowledge we are not like them.
But here is the rub. We can all be arrogant! As Gwyn Teatro rightly points out:
“We are all guilty of taking positions of arrogance. It does not discriminate. When it shows up, it has a way of impeding real progress; of serving only the few at the expense of the many; and of making fools of those who put their own importance ahead of everything else.
Witness this exchange. *It is an actual radio conversation between a U.S. naval ship and Canadian authorities, off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995.
Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision
Americans: This is the Captain of a U.S. Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again. You divert YOUR course.
Americans: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH, THAT’S ONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.
Canadians: This is a Lighthouse. It’s your call.
There you have it folks, a prime example of arrogance at work.
So, as we approach another new year, my wish for organizations and people everywhere, including me, is that we strive to leave behind our arrogance to make room for more productive values and perhaps a more peaceful existence.
It couldn’t hurt. What say you?
*Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations, 10/10/95″
I am considering anonymously sending a copy of this conversation to my Arrogance Week Allstars. Perhaps there are some people in your network that might also benefit from a reminder of the perils of arrogance.
Come to think of it, maybe we can all benefit from reflecting on this conversation with the humble lighthouse keeper. After all as I said at the outset, “none of us are perfect”.
Chris is the founder and a director of Cause & Effective. We guide not for profits through tricky leadership transitions – minimising the risk and capitalising on the opportunities that arise.