If Humility’s So Important, Why Are So Many Leaders So Arrogant

The importance of humility is practically a cornerstone of leadership. So why are so many leaders so arrogant?

Anywhere leadership is being discussed and defined, humility is a key concept. It shows up in books and articles and at leadership conferences around the world. But clearly many leaders are not embracing the concept—at least not for themselves. As a leadership coach, I have the privilege of access to a wide range of leaders at every level, affording me a good perspective on broad issues. Here’s what the leaders I know are telling me about humility:

Humility isn’t even in the top ten qualities of great leaders. I’ve argued this point many times. A leader says, “If you think of the top ten skills of a leader you never see humility.” My response: Even if you don’t see the word, you definitely see what humility stands for. As a leader, you show humility when you listen and care about others. It’s about placing yourself in someone else’s shoes—not a quality to take lightly. Arrogance means giving yourself credit and power, but humility believes in bringing out the power within people.

Humility is a form of weakness. An important reason that leaders don’t embrace humility is the idea that it comes across as weak—and no one wants to be thought of as weak. It’s that same fear of being seen as weak that drives arrogant leaders to put themselves and their personal agendas ahead of organizational objectives and the common good. Those who lead with humility, on the other hand, work to support, inspire and develop others. They teach others the best of what they know and they help others achieve. It’s the ultimate form of strength.

Humility gets a bad rap. Traditional leadership thinking dictates that we can’t be humble and confident at the same time. The assumption among too many executives is that competition—between companies, between teams and between individuals—leaves no room for recognizing or practicing humility. But in truth there is a core of humility in every genuinely confident leader. They don’t have to lead with arrogance to get people’s attention.

At the end of the day, no one likes dealing with arrogant leaders. Even if they come across as strong or powerful, they are rarely accorded trust or respect. Arrogant leaders suffer from an overinflated ego—they believe they matter most.

Those who lead from humility and fearlessness don’t have to lead with their ego. They never feel the need to bully others, sideline their competitors or take credit they haven’t earned. They know who they are and therefore they’re not afraid to shine the light on others.

Lead from within: The biggest difference between humility and arrogance is that  a leader who leads with humility is focused on serving others, while an arrogant leader is focused on being served by others.


#1  N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R

The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Photo Credit: istockphoto

Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. simon

    01. Jun, 2020

    very interesting article. thank you

    Reply to this comment
  2. Bryan LeBlanc

    02. Jun, 2020

    Hi Lolly

    I have been a Leader in my Professional Trade for 42 years as a President/Owner/Carpenter with this Business.
    Also President/CEO/Coach for Special Olympics British Columbia & Alberta for the last 17 Years.

    As much as I have done with these two important Jobs, I still need so much help with being a Leader.
    Looking forward to buying and ready your new Book.


    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      05. Jun, 2020

      All of us are always developing, growing and evolving that is the journey of our lives and leadership. Nice to meet you Bryan.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Deirdre

    28. Jun, 2020

    Unfortunately Lolly, leaders keep getting their ego stroked by those around them. Suddenly they can do no wrong!
    Humility is not just about showing empathy and wanting to serve … but also being prepared to admit your thoughts, plans and actions were wrong!!

    Arrogance and ego won’t allow that!

    Great article

    Thank you

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      02. Jul, 2020

      Ego is leading by edging out greatness, humility allows empathy which gives us the humble heart we need to lead.

      Reply to this comment
  4. Adam Salih

    11. Jul, 2021

    Great article Lolly. Fully agree with you that humility is rarely mentioned among the top ten skills of a leader. I do also believe that arrogant leaders fear being interpreted as weak if they embrace humility. While in reality humble leaders influence their followers to do what they want done by encouraging participation and involving people in decisions, and giving credit to those who have earned it. Thanks

    Reply to this comment

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