At large component of my work includes working with senior executives to develop stronger Personal Branding.  Executive presence is a vital ingredient in a leaders ability to influence internal and external stakeholders.  In exploring the personal branding elements, we invariably have a number of key conversations about behavioral values.  Questions that often emerge are how we display  “Asserting” vs “Aggression” and the fine line between “Arrogance” and “Confidence”.  I’m intrigued by these subtle distinctions. 

Some while ago, I posed this question to my Facebook colleagues; “Arrogance. Confidence.  It’s a fine line.  How would you define it?”.  I thank all the wise souls who ventured forward with definitions—I was enriched by the sharing.

There are a number of definitions for arrogance, but basically it seems that most people perceive someone who feels the need to make themselves feel smart or superior at the expense of someone else, or by making the other feel inferior – as arrogance. Arrogant people tend to focus on showing other people’s flaws, or insist on interrupting and correcting people due to the fact that they themselves are feeling insecure. It is the only way they can get close to feeling important, as they seek external validation. Most arrogant people are compensating for a lack of confidence, or they are trying to hide their own insecurities.

I really love this succinct definition from my friend Javier Munoz      (@justaction) “Confidence comes from embracing your insecurities while arrogance comes from denying their existence”…

Confidence on the other hand is perceived by most people as an internal sense of competence in one’s own abilities. A confident person will be genuine and try to help others out by contributing through the effective use of their abilities. A confident person also rarely finds the need for external validation in order to define their sense of self-worth, as confidence is built up over time, not overnight.

As my friend Kate Emmerson says ‘confidence shines while arrogance dims.’

In our personal branding conversations, clients and I are seeking ways for them  to demonstrate behaviors that reinforce the positive perceptions they choose to portray.  We list all the do’s and dont’s and find opportunities to express them;

Do make eye contact. Do be respectful.

Don’t be a name-dropper, condescend, interrupt or one-up others.

Don’t blame.

What else would you add to the conversation?


ImageMichelle Clarke is an Executive Coach based in Cape Town. She works locally and internationally with Leaders, Executives and Executive Coaches, helping them to navigate the complexity of 21st century leadership.  To learn more about her work please visit her website, and be sure also to subscribe to this blogfor future updates.

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