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Pride, Not Arrogance
Written by Robert Roy Johnson
Years of hard work and dedication have paid off. You are now a captain. You should be proud. However, pride is one thing. Arrogance is another. A Chinese proverb says, “Arrogance invites ruin; humility receives benefits.” A leader is wise to remember this.
As the big kahuna, it is pretty easy to become full of yourself. You are afforded considerable deference. Your jokes are always well received. Your inadvertent interruptions are tolerated. Everyone wants to be your new best friend. And being referred to as “sir” or “ma’am” or, especially, “boss” inflates the ego somewhat.
All of this high regard attaches courtesy of the rank itself. Do not squander it. Stay proud, but do not become arrogant. The respect that matters is that which you earn. And you actualize that respect by establishing a personal relationship with your people based on the respect you show them. Prideful leadership will get the job done. Arrogant leadership is an oxymoron that inevitably will alienate you from your officers.
The arrogant manager is inaccessible. Chain of command is essential to any efficient department operation. However, your officers need to know that you care about their personal well being. They need to have a sense that you take an interest in their lives and in their careers within your department. Consequently, they need to know you are approachable and that, when they need you, you will be there for them.
The arrogant manager is phony. Arrogance does not lend itself to sincerity. When an arrogant manager is required to express sympathy, the words will drip with insincerity. Forced and faked emotions will be evident. The proud captain, having established a personal, caring relationship with the officers of the department will find it easy to empathize.
The arrogant manager is condescending. That captain talks down to an officer during what should be a learning experience. A corrective counseling should be a respectful exchange of information. It is an opportunity for the leader to teach and demonstrate. Arrogantly lecturing, peppering comments with putdowns and worn out clichés, and displaying scornful facial expressions will spur the officer into erecting a wall of resistance.
The arrogant manager does not listen. The officer seeking solace, advice, counsel, direction, or a sympathetic ear will be keenly disappointed. Arguably, a leader’s most valuable asset is communication. The arrogant manager who is both condescending and fails to listen is doomed to fail.
The arrogant manager is never wrong. Arrogance does not allow for mistakes. The leader who can own up to an error can then promise to correct the problem. Acknowledging fallibility humanizes a leader. Everyone makes mistakes. The captain who is never wrong will be perceived as nothing more than a buffoon.
The arrogant manager is judgmental. Convinced of his own infallibility, this captain finds it quite easy to judge harshly. Officers make mistakes, and they expect to see consequences to those errors. The proud leader handles these situations, even when they involve discipline, as learning experiences. The arrogant manager will judge officers, belittling them, making them feel stupid about an honest oversight or a well-intentioned mistake. This captain will produce officers incapable of making decisions for fear of an unnecessarily harsh judgment.
The arrogant manager never solicits feedback. After all, that captain already knows what is best for the department and its officers. Such a captain will soon be at the helm of a very disgruntled workforce. Officers who think their opinions do not matter and who have no input will be less likely to support department policy. The proud leader has confidence in the knowledge, experience and abilities of the work force. Officers who participate and who believe that their input matters will eagerly support that captain.
The arrogant manager is aloof. That captain passes officers in the hallways without acknowledging their presence. Sure, you are busy, and there are many things on your mind, but a kind word or a cheerful greeting shows respect. A comment about what matters to your officers, like, “How are the kids, Jason?” or “Nice arrest yesterday, Patricia,” means a great deal to your people. Make a point of familiarizing yourself with the accomplishments of individual officers.
Be proud, not arrogant. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “A person unlearns arrogance when he knows he is always among worthy human beings.” If you value your people, you will not succumb to arrogance. Take pride, not only in your rank, but also in your officers, and you will gain their respect. Having earned this respect, there is nothing you cannot accomplish. You can be proud of that.
Robert Roy Johnson is a 37-year police veteran, currently at the rank of captain. A management consultant and speaker, Johnson is an adjunct professor in Public Safety Management at Calumet College of Saint Joseph. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in Law and Order, Oct 2008
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