There’s a Fine Line Between Confidence and Arrogance

by | Jan 5, 2017 | Behavior, Blog Series, Character, Leadership, Self-awareness, Trust | 0 comments

Welcome to the Fine Line Series, highlighting the often razor-thin margin between essential and detrimental leadership behaviors. Exhibit a particular behavior and you’re a champion; overdo it just a little bit and you’re a chump. How do you know where the line between them is, and how can you avoid crossing over it? 


Confidence is an essential leadership quality. Without it, it’s hard for anyone to trust you.

Confidence comes from things like technical know-how and experience, but it also comes—sometimes more importantly—from intangible qualities. Some leaders are comfortable with risk, for instance. Others exude indefatigable optimism. Still others can effortlessly navigate unknowns as if they have a sixth sense of what’s coming.

All of these traits (and more) blend together to provide the leader with a sense of confidence. Like wind in your sails, confidence adds power and momentum to your leadership effectiveness.

Like wind in your sails, confidence adds power and momentum to your leadership effectiveness

So if a little confidence is good, then a lot must be even better, right?

Not so much.

The issue (like most of the traits we’ll see in the Fine Line series) is one of overuse. Too much confidence is just that: over-confidence. It’s fabricated; artificial. It comes off as fake—like you’re trying too hard.

Left unchecked, overconfidence can turn into arrogance—the worst, most destructive outcome because you aren’t even aware of it. Arrogance convinces you that you can’t fail, and you’ll do whatever it takes to protect your reputation.

Arrogance is too much wind in your sails, and your “crew” will start to wonder why you don’t see it.

Arrogance convinces you that you can’t fail, and you’ll do whatever it takes to protect your reputation

“And Your Point Is…?”

Confidence is an essential leadership trait. Arrogance is a character flaw—and probably a sign that your interests have shifted too far toward self.

So What?

Confidence is most effective when it’s natural. It’s not manufactured; it’s not synthetic.

Let it be a product, the fruit of your preparation and inner strength. It flows from your processes, insight, experience, wisdom, giftedness, focus, etc. In other words, once you’ve done all you can do to prepare for leading your team in a given situation—whatever that entails—trust that. Be single-minded with a high level of conviction about what needs to happen, then focus on influencing your team accordingly.

Confidence is an essential leadership trait. Arrogance is a character flaw—and probably a sign that your interests have shifted too far toward self

The Big Picture

Confidence comes from strength, not from power.

Many leaders try to manufacture confidence as a show of power, an attempt to convince others—and sometimes themselves—they are capable. This eventually morphs into manipulation and arrogance, which is just a distraction from the leadership challenge.

Confidence comes from strength, not from power

Your Next Step

How will you know where the line between confidence and arrogance is for you?

What will you do to keep from crossing it?

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