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Pursue Confidence. Avoid Arrogance. (#131)

The Confident Leader

We watched Elon Musk walk into the lobby of the offices of Twitter on his first day as the unlikely CEO. He was carrying a porcelain sink and proceeded to say, “Let this sink in.” I turned to my son and asked if he thought that his leadership act was one of confidence or arrogance. His response frames our discussion.

Confidence is believing in yourself. Arrogance is telling others you’re better than they are. Confidence inspires. Arrogance destroys.
— Simon Sinek (Author & Speaker)

This Week’s Edition

When a leader is attempting to improve their leadership confidence but has not fully understood the difference between confidence and arrogance, they may hesitate in the pursuit of full confidence for fear of being arrogant.

Clarify Your Thinking

My son shared, “Dad, I think it was an act of confidence. If he had walked in with a porcelain toilet and said, ‘I’m here to flush you down the drain,’ that would have been arrogant.”  

As an executive coach, I support leaders on their journey to grow their confidence in myriad situations they encounter. Sometimes those situations cause them to question their leadership, and that doubt can cause the leader to reach for any manner of coping mechanisms, some of which can look like arrogance – coming across inauthentically or too sharp.

“Robin, I’m not sure about this situation. I’m trying to lead confidently, but it feels more like, ‘fake it til you make it.’ I’m concerned it’ll come across wrong.”  A leader’s action can be easily misinterpreted by those they lead even when they are just doing the best they can under the circumstances.

If a leader doesn’t trust how their actions will be perceived, they’ll hesitate. If they don’t feel good about how their actions or decisions will land, they will proceed tentatively, especially in a tight labor market where they can ill afford to offend their team. 

So what is the difference between confidence and arrogance?

Confidence is having faith in yourself and your own abilities.

  • Confidence combined with ambition is an effective and sustainable mindset who aspire to do big things with huge unknowns.

Arrogance is having an inflated sense of personal value or an attitude of superiority. 

  • Arrogant leaders have lower job performance and their teams rate lower on job satisfaction and morale.

Old Thinking: My doubt causes me to question how I am coming across with my team. I might cross the line into being perceived as arrogant. I might stick with being merely confident enough. 

New Thinking: I’m not going to settle for being confident enough. I want to complete my confidence. I’m going to understand the difference between confidence and arrogance, and I’ll trust the process to grow my leadership accordingly. 

Thoughts Lead to Actions

Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations, was recently interviewed about her potential candidacy for the 2024 election for President. Her responses epitomized the confident leader without a whiff of arrogance. 

When asked why she wanted to run and what qualified her to do so, she responded in the following way:

  1. I want to do the job, and I bring a unique perspective.

  2. I’m as qualified as anyone else who may run. 

  3. I’m up for the challenge, and I can do the job.

Some may hear her comments as arrogant but, the leadership textbook deems them as the quintessential definition of confidence:

  1. She wants the job. 

    • Don’t we want leaders who want to be leaders. 

  1. She says she is qualified. 

    • Don’t we want leaders who work hard to amass experience that helps them earn the role? 

  1. She says she can do the job. 

As you examine your own leadership confidence ask yourself:

  • Do you want the job?

  • Do you have a set of experiences that have prepared you?

  • Are you up for the challenge, especially the unknown?

Boost Your Performance

When a leader conflates confidence with arrogance, they will eventually stall in the development of their leadership confidence thus diluting their leadership efficacy. Watch this week’s video on how to confidently pursue leadership confidence. 

What’s Your Opinion?

What is your definition of confidence? Share it with me at

If you are going to be a leader, you might as well be a good one. Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

We live to make bad leadership extinct so forward this newsletter to others who strive to be confident leaders. 

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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