Arrogance and Incompetence – The Deadly Elixir of Poor Performance


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The Peter Principle tells us that a person will rise to their level of incompetence.  This may be true in all sorts of endeavors.  However most individuals when they reach this level will willingly ask for assistance or will be demoted or terminated once it’s shown they cannot do the job.

The challenge for leaders is working with individuals who display a strong enough arrogance level that they can continue to fool managers into believing that they can still effectively do the job.  A good example of this might be a Sales Manager who has had a lot of success in the past in other areas, but now they struggle to get even close to what they should be able to achieve.  They brag about their past successes and find ways to deflect their failures by blaming “The System” with their current employer or poor quality from the production department.  Their solution is almost always to allow them to be in more and more control since they have all the answers.  However, their incompetence only deepens the crisis that they have created themselves.

4 Distinct Angles

Let’s look at this problem from 4 distinct angles.  Where are your team members in relation to these 4 areas?

High Arrogance and Low Incompetence = An annoying but successful individual.  This is the kind of individual who would benefit from some form of interpersonal coaching, but is an asset to the company

Low Arrogance and High Incompetence = A trainable and moldable individual.  This individual will be very open to all sorts of training and coaching, but may lack the ability, over time, to truly become a success.

High Arrogance and High Incompetence = A toxic asset to the company and highly destructive in many ways to the overall operation of the business.

Low Arrogance and Low Incompetence = An excellent resource and an ideal individual for your business.

The challenge for the business leader is to recognize the difference between arrogance and confidence.  Simply put, confident people have the ability to honestly acknowledge their mistakes, and yet never lose the reality that they are going to win at whatever they do.  However, arrogant people will go to great lengths to focus on themselves and ensure that other’s mistakes are the focus of whatever goes wrong.

As a leader, you must find a way to get rid of these high arrogance/ high incompetence individuals at your earliest opportunity, no matter how convincing they may sound.  Your business is counting on you to make the hard decisions, so here’s your opportunity.

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