The arrogance of strength is a potent elixir. The intoxication of power is fearsome, and it so easily gets formed into a faux feeling of supremacy. In most cases, drunken brute force is downright ugly.
We all read stories where brash egos, the lust for power, the overconfidence of maligned supremacy brought down individuals and the companies they lead. Bad decision making is the root cause of the collapse — bad choices in marketing, purchasing, hiring and promoting. Relationships suffer, both within the organization and with the struggling customer base.
The word Hubris comes to mind. Hubris comes from Greek; it is the ultimate pride. The pride is so great that the ambitions and efforts resulted in offending the gods and leading to the individual’s downfall. Hubris was a common theme in many Greek tragedies, including the well-known tragedies of Oedipus and Achilles. The saying heard countless times, “Pride goeth before a fall,” is discussing Hubris.
The origins of the word arrogance provide insight too. Arrogance comes from the Latin word adrogare. It is a strong word meaning that one has the right to demand specific attitudes and behaviors from others.
Arrogance, abuse of power, exploitation, and motivation by fear have been with us for ages. Unfortunately, we as humans continue to struggle with abusive authority, whether we be the afflicter or the afflicted. In William Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure, Isabella warns Angelo when taking on a new position:
O’ it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength but is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.
Now power is not destructive when used appropriately. Professor Christopher Loch, the Director of Cambridge Judge Business School, said, “Hubris is not a mental disease — it is the result of psychological reactions to power and status to which we are all subject. In healthy people, it serves to enable confidence and reduce stress, but in some, it creates a perception of oneself as a giant and others as minions. This distorts the individual’s sense of goals and decisions. It’s this effect that makes Hubris a highly relevant risk-management issue for businesses.”
The monster boss loses respect from his subordinates. How? Instead of telling the arrogant leaders the truth, they now only say what the leaders want to hear. Sadly, the tyrants believe what their colleagues tell them and bask in their words as if it is a massage with sensuous and fragrant oils.
Short-sightedness and the failure to plan for the future leads to further demise. Interest and learning what is happening in their industry field is nothing but a fleeting pastime. Maintaining power is at the forefront.
Then too, the tyrant demands a grandiose office, lavish dinners, chauffeurs, and private jets to fuel his need for power — the organization struggles. Good contributors leave, and all that is left are the “yes” people.
Getting high on one’s greatness leads to the false feeling of being more significant than he or she is. The drunken power brute creates myths that he is forced to live but often cannot. Yes, is the only answer; I can do everything, do it all, and promise anything.
What is the workaholic, arrogant, tyrannical leader to do? The troubled leader needs to let go of his sense of supreme self-importance so that he may view other people’s opinions honestly in a proportional relation to his own.
Going from a tyrant to a successful leader requires self-mastery. Many think of self-mastery as a mysterious and fearful undertaking. It is not. Self-Mastery is looking to see what one’s strengths and capabilities are and then find ways to orchestrate and develop these talents.
Is the journey of self-mastery comfortable? No, of course not. It calls for one’s thorough familiarity with one’s mental and emotional strengths. The biggest challenge, no doubt, is that self-mastery calls for a sustaining commitment to personal growth. It is two-fold; understanding what makes you tick as an individual and for one’s professional development.
An effective leader cultivates potential, capabilities, and confidence in themselves and the people around them.