7 Ways to Identify Humility vs Arrogance in Leadership

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Fighter JetCan you be confident, aggressive, and humble? Yes you can. Unfortunately, humility is often overlooked in leadership discussions. And yet it is one of the most powerful virtues.

As one of the first female F-14 fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy, operating in one of the highest pressure, most extreme environments imaginable, I can assure you that there was more testosterone, more ego and more confidence in one carrier-based fighter pilot ready room than in an NFL locker room.

Hands down.

There had to be. This wasn’t a game.

Humble Leader QuoteAnd yet, if you were to sit in a ready room (the space onboard the aircraft carrier or in the squadron hangar where we would plan, brief our missions, talk about execution and then do the follow on debriefs), more often than not there would be plenty of self-deprecating uncensored humor, good-natured ribbing, comparing wins and losses—always, but generally a true, clear respect for others.

There were few carrier aviators who were outright arrogant.

There were many who were confident—yet humble.

Personal humility is a trait that has been recognized as a critical aspect in high performance. Research supports this.

Unfortunately, too often humility or genuine modesty is tagged as a lack of aggressiveness.


It is a lack of arrogance.

Confidence comes from pushing past your limits, through humbling learned experiences, and achievement. Humility comes from understanding your responsibilities to something outside of yourself. The best leaders I work with are both confident and humble—they tend to inspire a sense of collaboration, espirit de corps within the teams they lead. No matter the tempo of operations.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever worked with an arrogant person.

All hands up?

Arrogant leaders suffer from an overinflated ego—they believe they matter most.

They are self-destructive.

They’re usually jack-wagons.

The importance of humility for effective and fearless leadership cannot be understated.

Today, more than ever it’s important to not confuse confidence with arrogance, or humility with a lack of aggressiveness. They are incredibly different.

Do you have the quiet confidence and humility of David? Or the conceited arrogance of Goliath? Take a peek below to see where you fall out:

  1. Arrogant people believe they have the right to own others. What you can say, what you should believe. They are manipulative.  And they are always ‘right’.
  2. Humble leaders say, “We were successful.” Arrogant leaders say, “I own this. This success is mine.”
  3. Humble leaders ask, “How can I help you?
  4. Arrogant leaders fear competition.  They are bullies. They take credit for the experiences of others. And then blame others when their organization is failing. Their business decisions are driven by ego.
  5. Humble leaders work to support, inspire and develop others. Humble leaders teach others the best of what they know, they help others achieve.
  6. Arrogant leaders put themselves, their personal agendas ahead of organizational objectives and the common good.
  7. Humble leaders have high self-esteem and self-awareness and continue to push themselves to do better. They also recognize the rights of others to do the same, and, in fact encourage them to get better! They are not threatened.

Showing humility is a sign of strength. Not weakness. Beware of the notion that because someone seems ‘nice’ that they aren’t aggressive.

It’s called handling yourself with grace. Humility.

Those fearless leaders who respect others, have self-respect and humility are much more likely to lead successful organizations and bring more teammates with them on the journey.

Forgo the arrogant jack-wagons. True fearless leaders operate with humility and grace.

Be fearless.

By Carey Lohrenz

Carey LohrenzA highly sought after motivational speaker and leadership expert, Carey Lohrenz has flown missions worldwide as a combat-mission-ready United States Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot. She holds a commercial pilot’s license, in addition to several other professional aviation ratings.  Her extensive experience operating in one of the world’s most challenging environments, an aircraft carrier, and her unique position as one of the first female combat pilots make her the perfect opening or closing inspirational keynote speaker for your corporate meeting or conference.

Carey graduated from the University of Wisconsin where she was a varsity rower, also training at the Pre-Olympic level. After graduation, she attended the Navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate School before starting flight training and her naval career. She is the mother of four kids, and is currently working on her Master’s in Business Administration in Strategic Leadership.

Visit Carey’s website here or connect with her on LinkedIn

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