Humility versus Arrogance

Life is full of choices. One of the choice we need to make is between “Humility” & “Arrogance”. It is not that the choice is between black and white. It is most of the time grey. While most of us like to be humble and modest in our day to day behaviour, its the effectiveness of arrogant people around us, which tempts us to review our choice. We sometimes feel that humble people are ignored and walked over. On the other hand, the arrogant ones are noticed and people do listen to them.

Many of my colleagues at work at all stages of my career have always expressed this dilemma in their life. Is it a good idea to be humble and ignored sometimes or be arrogant and get noticed always. I do not have a ready made recipe. But can share my learnings from life and its consequences. One can get away with arrogance as long as you are seated in a position of power in family, work or society. The day you give up your position, you are neither respected nor remembered.

If someone was to ask you to recall your favourite teacher in school, you would always remember the one who was kind to you and grounded. We never remember people who were pompous and arrogant in their behaviour. Life is no different. While it is true that sometimes arrogant behaviour may appear more effective in getting things done in the short term, nobody will every cherish your company in the long term.

Let us examine this phenomenon from various angles. The first angle is that of history. We adore people who were humble and generous in their thought and actions. We do not like to study about the arrogant and pompous types. This is not because we know either of them from the past. It is more because we would like to have role models who are modest and not abrasive in their behaviour.

If we look back at our work life, we will always cherish to work with people who are simple, modest and willing to learn and share with others. We may sometimes feel that they are not assertive enough but their humility bowls us over. If you are humble does not mean that you cannot be assertive. It means that you know where your feet are and are always willing to learn from your own mistakes. Pride is like anger. It can only destroy you today and tomorrow. On the other other humility is like honey, it will always make you a sweet person to adore.

If we look at our family and friends, we always like to be in the company of those whom we respect. We respect those who are our role models. Our role models are people who are grounded and kind. People who are humble will always be good listeners and effective coaches. Their actions teach others. Even if they do not actively coach anyone, others learn even in their company every day.

On the other hand the arrogant people spread venom. They may appear very aggressive and effective in the short term. But they spoil all their relationships in the long term. Their day to day behaviour repels people around them. Everyone tries to avoid such leaders. If given a choice, team members would prefer to join other teams rather than suffer in the hands of an arrogant leader.

The best thing to learn from kids is that they do not have to make a choice. They are natural in their disposition as in the photo above.

It is true that sometimes it may appear that humble leaders may look less effective. However such leaders are always better in the long term. Their leadership is sustainable and focussed on the future. They would never cut corners or look at short term benefits. On the hand, they may sometimes be willing to sacrifice short term gains to create long term sustainability of their people and organisations.

What would you prefer ?

S Ramesh Shankar