I’ve worked with many confident people and, as is true with other Type A’s, I’ve had the occasion to clash with some of them. There were times when it was about agreement on performance metrics; other times it was a matter of how to get things done. With respect to the latter, I have come to learn how to step back and avoid battles about how tasks are executed, particularly if there’s a track record of success. I’d characterize my philosophy as “if it’s ethical, legal, and moral, I’ll usually tolerate the errant behavior IF the results are there.” So, substance trumps style (though, in sales, style is often a key contributor to success.)
But what about the world at large? Will most people tolerate arrogance in the workplace? Consider Steve Jobs. He had all kinds of failure in his life, but he was driven by an incredible self-belief that transcended those circumstances. That drive had an impact on those around him. I ran Macworld for several years and was well aware of the fear within Apple that Jobs produced. Yet, the success of most of Apple’s products is directly attributable to his vision and his dogged determination to fulfill that vision.
Now that Jobs is gone, people are free to analyze his legacy, both for the brilliance of his ideas and the harsh ways he treated some of the people around him. Does his product legacy excuse his arrogance? Probably yes, since he changed many of the markets with his products (iPhone, Apple 2, iPod, iTunes, etc.) Perhaps he had personal regrets at the end, but he certainly was a game changer.
But what about mere mortals like the rest of us? Can we get away with arrogance? Perhaps. But you had better be extremely good at what you do, as the “fall’ is precipitous if you’re not.
And people have very long memories….