Ideas Leadership Mind Organizational Behaviour

Walking Down the Lane from Humility to Arrogance

Walking Down the Lane from Humility to Arrogance

By Srija Chakraborty

February 9, 2021

The basic human predisposition is to choose the virtuous humility over the much-despised arrogance. Given a choice, would you cook a dish out of the spicy arrogance or the sweet humility? However, it is not as absolute as we perceive it to be. Perhaps, we could make a scrumptious dish with a spoonful of arrogance coupled with a generous sprinkling of humility.

Four Personalities

Color Palette from Humility to Arrogance

At the extreme left of the palette, we have a blob of the “humble” green, and on the opposite end, we have a dab of the “arrogant” red. As you move from left to right of the spectrum, the saturation of the delicate “green” of humility gets diluted and swatches of the bold “red” arrogance starts adding up to produce a yellow tint of “arrogant humble.” As we move to a shade darker along the gradient, an orange “humble arrogant” emerges. 

Each shade communicates its inherent characteristics. We are familiar with the two opposite ends of the spectrum. Much about humility and arrogance has already been discussed a lot of times in great detail. A truly humble person is empowered with self-awareness, confidence, and contentment so much so that there is no urge to prove or broadcast. Humility makes you reverential, lets you help and appreciate others, and allows you to accept your shortcomings. However, we, in our limited capacity of understanding, often misconstrue humility as an antidote to pride. We misinterpret politeness as weakness or submissiveness. Therefore, a humble person is often taken for granted or even exploited. 

More often than not, arrogance is perceived as an unappealing trait. Arrogance is primarily about self- importance, self-enhancement, and exaggerated pride. Having said that, arrogance might not be out-and-out contempt for others; the focus on self-improvement is so overpowering that the need to seek validation from others does not arise. Even though we blatantly assume, arrogance, in reality, might not consist in presumptuous inflated pride. As what might be misjudged as making extravagant undue claims about one’s worth, might actually be an exuberant confidence resulting in making the right claims about one’s abilities or achievements. We will discuss later in this article how the use of the compass of arrogance can help us navigate through the right direction toward our endpoint by using arrogance productively and balancing it appropriately, without being overly blunt or rude to others.

So, let us explore the transitional shades on the line between the two diametrically opposite hues—arrogant humility (AH) and humble arrogance (HA). What exactly are these two? Simply oxymorons? How do you differentiate one from the other?

The AH Factor

Arrogant humility is characterized by smears of inflated pride or arrogance on one’s humility. A paradox embedded in an oxymoron. We defy the virtue of humility once we become aware and proud of it. Arrogant humility isn’t humility at all. Let us break down few of the salient characteristics that distinguishes the yellow from the green.

The HA Factor

You have arrived at the magical shade by blending just the right dose of humility and arrogance. The right tint of arrogance adds the correct depth of confidence, self-assurance, and guts, while the right wash of humility, sweeping over with gratitude, openness and accountability, wears off the wrecks of arrogance.

HA features an eclectic mix that comes from the palette. This shade will make you move with ease and make you shine through all the facets of life. Humble Arrogants embody self-reliance and self-confidence but leave no stone unturned to showcase themselves if need be. The elevated self-esteem generates a continued desire to excel and an impetus to take risks and travel the extra mile. HA characterizes veneration for others as well as for oneself. A Humble Arrogant knows how to draw the line between taking onus of their mistakes and not taking the fall when blameless. The HA factor invites inspiration and sets the tone for able leadership. 

Sourav Ganguly is the perfect example. The “god of off-side” brought in various shades of arrogance and humility to Indian cricket. The “Maharaja,” not so impulsively, took his shirt off and bared his chest at the “Mecca of cricket.” His charisma was such that no bookie dared to approach him at a time when the match fixers took up the reins of many Indian cricketers. Nevertheless, “The prince of Calcutta” is the man who came down the batting order and gave the opening position to Sehwag, paving way for one of the best openers Indian cricket has witnessed. He burned the bridges with selectors to ensure that Anil Kumble was part of the national squad for the 2003–2004 Australia series. He took the “risk” of exiting from the team if Kumble and the team did not “play well.” Anil Kumble was outstanding in that series. Sourav Ganguly backed Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, and M.S. Dhoni even if that entailed disappointing the board and selectors. He was uncompromising but impartial. This arrogance-packed-humility crafted him into one of the greatest captains of all time.

Let us have a look at the idiosyncrasies that fine-tune and set apart the orange from the red.  

Now let us choose between the rock and the hard place.



Arrogant Humility versus Honest Arrogance

Arrogant humility is nothing but fake humility. It is pride veiled in humility. Often, we come across many celebrities, such as politicians and actors, humblebragging on social media. Fake humility stems from the urge to enact humility in order to glamorize ourselves or to grab attention and admiration. Humility is espoused. Arrogance is vilified. So often people act humble if not be one. 

We often receive commendation for the #nofilter #nomakeupflawlessmorning selfies on Instagram captioned “Can’t believe woke up to this.” We buy the humility of going make-up free. We overlook the pride behind it—the pride of looking flawless even without make-up. We pardon the implicit attempt made to elicit admiration toward a blemish-free, picture-perfect skin. This act of appearing humble in order to fish for compliments is problematic not only because it is deceptive but also because of the fact that it sets the wrong example as to what a bare face should look like. 

Parenting and humility can be used interchangeably. Unarguably, parents place their child’s needs above their own and extend the best possible support to build the child’s future. It is understandable that parents have certain basic expectations from their child. However, in today’s fiercely competitive world it has become a usual phenomenon that millennial parents burden their child with incredibly unrealistic demands and expectations. While the intentions are in accordance with the best interest of the child, the end results may be counter-productive. The “Trophy child,” in pursuit of meeting those unreasonable expectations, may lose their own voice and control over life. The parents emphasize on their hard-work and sacrifice for their child as a weapon to print their dreams through the child. In doing so, inadvertently, the nuanced genuineness in humility is compromised and the morality of humility is decried.

Authenticity is important but difficult to spot. So, the fake humbles are likeable and affable. However, they have early expiry dates. We cannot wear the make-up of pretention for long. It is sure to shed off some day. Needless to say, when exposed, they lose their approachability and, more importantly, their credibility. They are avoided. They lose friends and followers to fall back on.

Sometimes people use arrogant humility as an umbrella to shield themselves from their low confidence or low self-esteem. For instance, at our workplaces we come across many employees who do not want to lead a team project even when offered to do so. Then, there are some who simply reject compliments or pass on the credit to others. They perceive such manifestations as acts squared with humility, acts portraying I-don’t-want-the-spotlight attitude. The reality might be far from humility. These acts could be an outcome of the lack of confidence in one’s abilities to take up a challenging position. Such acts could also be contingent on the fear of getting exposed as incompetent. Similarly, by not accepting or bypassing compliments, one may be avoiding the risk of handling more expectations and more pressure in the future

Roaming around loaded with honest arrogance is better than wearing a mask of false humility. An honest arrogant may be unapologetic and, unlike a fake humble, is not manipulative or vulnerable. It is better to be honestly arrogant about one’s inflated confidence in one’s competencies or about one’s faith in one’s dream to achieve bigger things than to fake one’s way through humility to draw attention or to blanket one’s incompetence. Fake humility doesn’t guarantee long-term success in any professional or personal goal. On the contrary, honest arrogance of one’s superiority (if not presumptuous) can be used constructively to fuel self-development and to ascend goals in life in the following ways:


  1. Irrepressible confidence boosts the grit to pursue one’s targets and dreams.

  2. The absence of urge to scout around for approval and validation from others easily downplays negativity bias and wards off distractions generated by toxic people. 

  3. The larger-than-usual focus on one’s strengths provides safeguards against the weaknesses that confines one’s abilities.

Majority of the top CEOs we idolize, such as Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, etc., are marked by arrogance and it is this arrogance that has worked as an advantage for them. Steve Jobs was infamous for his little to zero tolerance toward mistakes, inflexible demand, and control-freak nature. He ruthlessly extracted the best out of his employees when their performance was not requisite. He micro-managed intricate details: from design of products to their slogan and logo. It is his arrogance to cling on to his decisions, push for more, and look beyond that made Apple Inc. a juggernaut. 

Christiano Ronaldo’s free kick at arrogance is nothing new. Perhaps, it his supreme self-confidence that makes him “arrogant, vain and whatever” and that is “all part of his ‘success.’” His inflated self-esteem hasn’t fouled over the decades; rather the exaggerated confidence in him is the internal motivator behind making the five-time Ballon d’Or winner one of the “best.”

The benefits of honest arrogance, though, can be better embraced while freed from the clutches of its ruinous effects. Moderation is the key. 

Wrap Up

If you were to choose a color to infuse into your personality on a blank canvas, which one would it be? If you go green, do not trade the smudge-free green for a smudged alternative. Be humbly humble. Do not scar it with fakeness.

If you want to take your creative flair to the next level and build a painter’s dream, orange is your go-to color—the color to success. Humble Arrogance is the arrogance that makes you stand apart from the ordinary and helps you reach the top rung on the success ladder, palliating arrogance with humility to prevent the former from becoming self-delusional.

If you choose red, unleash through your brushwork the burst of the best version of red. Use your arrogance productively to be on edge, to remain aligned to your goals, to distance yourself from toxic people, and to capitalize solely on your strengths.

Last but definitely not the least, choose anything but yellow. No matter how aesthetically appealing it is, you might wake up someday to find the magic effaced, rendering the same blank canvas you started with. Arrogant Humility will never fetch the rewards of true humility. Fake humility will make you chase the mirage of admiration, commendation, and attention but in the long run, it will leave you stagnant and grounded, blocking your access to avenues of opportunities and upper echelons of the success league.

We must also remember that humility and arrogance are judgments we make based on limited information and understanding we have of a person. Often, the message gets lost in translation, leading to misinterpretations. 


Srija Chakraborty gave words to the H-AH-HA-A concept developed by Partha PD. Srija is an Assistant Manager at Tata Consulting Engineers Limited. Other than the challenges in Mechanical Design Engineering, she is also keen on designing her life. She is a food nerd. Cooking is her stress-buster and she loves backpacking, too. She is a trained Kathak dancer. She adorned her feet with the ghungroo at the age of six and practices the patience and perseverance that Kathak has taught her.

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Business Review Ideas Leadership Mind Scatter Diagram

Scatter Diagram: A Pathfinder for Your Power

Scatter Diagram: A Pathfinder for Your Power

By Ushasi Sengupta

January 31, 2021

With a simple click on “Search,” or by pressing “Enter,” we receive plenty of responses to our queries on our screens, anytime and anywhere. Information is so widely available that a query string generates abundantly—sometimes more than we require. More or less, most of us can avail similar resources, as technology is pretty affordable.

In a world with a diminishing advantage of information, what could be your differentiator?  How do leaders stand out among the crowd? We have read that leaders can leverage analogies from other disciplines to solve a problem. Let us see how to systematically manifest that treasure trove of problem-solving.

The Scatter Diagram Technique helps.[i] The technique is a synthesis of our perspectives about diverse domains. It is a systematic approach that helps in identifying and exploring various solutions to individual and business issues at a micro or a macro level. Moreover, it can help individuals nurture a quality life.[ii]

In this article, we shall dive deeper and experiment with our instrument to arrive at creative solutions to “power conflicts”—a primary aspect of any business. We will explore diverse business situations that are potentially vulnerable to confrontations over the distribution of power. Subsequently, we will apply the concept of Scatter Diagram to analyze those scenarios.

What is Power?

Power is an ability that helps an individual influence others’ decision. By definition, “Power is a capacity that ‘A’ has to influence the behaviour of ‘B’ to do things he or she would not otherwise do” (Obisi 2003)[iii]. In an organization, individuals own different power bases—formal or informal—and capitalize power accordingly. Conflicts of interest in power transactions often result in disputes. Let us analyze a set of conflict situations.

Understanding Power Conflicts through the Scatter Diagram

As mentioned above, we will apply the Scatter Diagram technique and find out potential solutions to our cases in the points.

Our three points in the Scatter Diagram are “football,” “history,” and “politics.”Power Sourcing: How Do Football Clubs Foster Their Talent?

In Football, power transactions occur between power bases, such as between the coach and the captain, the coach and the support staff, the management and the players, the management and the coach, the senior team staff and the junior team staff, and so on. Football clubs have their strategy to attract niche talent. One of those is the player transfer policy of few of the professional football clubs. Who can forget the expensive player recruiting process of Galácticos, Real Madrid, in the early 2000s?

Power Sourcing/Fostering Power: In-House and Outsourcing

Real Madrid diversified talent sourcing and brought renowned players in the team. This created a player-pool and, in turn, fueled the growth of the club. Their move opened avenues for strong off-pitch commercial presence leading to a financial transformation of the club. Real Madrid doubled their revenue from £93.2m per annum in 2001 to £186.4m at the end of the financial year in 2005.[iv]

This tactic proved to be a differentiator for Real Madrid because FC Barcelona, its arch-rival, heavily depended on nurturing players fresh from the Barça Academy. Barcelona’s philosophy of nurturing talents resembles organizations’ strategy of fostering in-house talents based on their value systems. This, in turn, protects tacit knowledge and thus promotes in-house brands like Barca’s famous “Tiki-Taka” style.

From an organizational perspective, we observe Microsoft, the technology conglomerate, handing over the executive leadership position to Satya Nadella, a Microsoft veteran, in 2014. Whereas during 2012, Siemens, Hershey’s, and 3M recruited CEOs from outside to steer diverse strategies. Another recent example is that of Infosys. Infosys appointed Vishal Sikka, a former member of the executive board at German software company SAP AG, as the CEO in 2014.

Power Distribution: What If the Team Has Only One Center of Control?

Now let us focus on the process of how an individual or an organization can influence associated individuals, that is, organizational control. Going by our sample football point, we will explore two famous figures of the English football division—Sir Alex Ferguson and Mr. Arsène Wenger. They are among the most successful and elite football managers. Both of them are also known for their penchant for silverware.

Surely, something that places them beyond the crowd is their management style. Their leadership style was far from traditional, while their underlying strategy was “control.”

Centralized Power Steers toward a Common Goal

Though questioned multiple times, Arsène Wenger spearheaded both managing and coaching responsibilities. Interestingly, absolute authority helped these defiant personalities thrive beyond the glorious period of their career. A centralized power enabled both to form a multicultural and diverse team and to steer the team toward a common goal—productivity improved, complacency reduced, and quality ensured.

In companies, power distribution between leadership and employees follows a similar pattern too. Brian Stowell, the CEO of Crown Point Cabinetry that supplied high-end custom kitchen cabinets to customers throughout the US, earned the trust of customers and motivated the workforce by implementing his strategy of organizational control.[v] Thus, understanding the absolute authority of a coach in a football team gives us an idea of organizational control and its importance.

Could there be a flip side of absolute authority? What could happen if most of the organizational power rests with an individual?

Absolute Authority Might Lead to Organizational Conflicts

Lionel Messi is touted as “the single most important entity” in his club, FC Barcelona. According to his teammates, “Barca can do anything to retain Messi.” Focusing on the corporate world, we see the influence of Warren Buffet on Berkshire Hathaway’s future or how Elon Musk’s tweets on Tesla negatively impacted Tesla’s share price by almost 20 percent. The aforementioned are among the many instances of impacts of a centralized corporate governance.

Stand-alone influences, such as Messi in Barcelona or Ronaldo in Juventus, can help their team align to a common goal. If channelized properly, this stand-alone influence can motivate the team immensely. However, when that individual fails to perform, it might destroy the value. From an organization’s perspective, the higher the power distance in an organization is, the more dependent are the subordinate employees on their leadership.

This, in turn, makes an organization more vulnerable to differences in opinion among its employees. And, “agency costs” increase if the stakeholders are not managed properly. The rise and fall of Theranos, the blood testing start-up in Silicon Valley, depicts the entire picture of stand-alone influence of the CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, who was the supreme influencer and decision-maker of the healthcare start-up.[vi]

So, from our knowledge of football, we can infer that absolute authority establishes a culture of power-distance in an organization, which can enhance corporate performance and impact adversely as well. However, a corporate governance that can strike a balance between a culture of power distance and a system of distributed accountability will steer the institution towards a common aspiration and enhance the institution’s performance.

Power of Collaboration: What can We Reflect from History to Strengthen Our Power Tenet?

We will shift to the next point of our Scatter Diagram, that is, History. Transactions of power occur between a king and his nobles, between a king and a church, between nobles and peasants, among colonies and empires, and across different strata of a society. Let us analyze these structures and try to understand the consequences of the division of power leveraging some “historically tested” solutions.

First, we will try to understand the meaning of “authority.” As per Max Weber, “Authority is power whose use is considered just and appropriate by those over whom the power is exercised.”[vii]The early Vedic history showcases an effective way of distribution of authority. The Varnas—Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras—were divided based on profession and people were living in a cohesive society. They were interdependent and had mutual respect.

Mutual Respect and Collaboration Drive Holistic Development

Though later on, this mutual respect was lost and the society became divided. This not only established hierarchy among castes and repression of the lower castes but also made the society weaker and vulnerable to attacks from foreign powers. Research study emphasizes the same as finding says that 80% of employees treated uncivilly spend significant work time ruminating on the bad behavior, and 48% deliberately reduce their effort.[viii] Hence, we can acknowledge that “collaboration and respect” can develop stronger bonds among teams and help the system prosper as a whole.

Mergers and Acquisitions: What Does the Roman Empire Tell Us about Corporate Synergy?

Thus, collaborations manifest synergy. “Synergy” becomes more vital when different institutions share their resources either by merging together or acquiring the other institution.

“Mergers and acquisitions” are crucial in the corporate world and so is the power struggle among the involved parties. Often, after acquiring a small firm, larger firms tend to overarch their culture and policy. Or when two firms merge, a mix and common culture are imposed on both the organizations. Two companies fail to negotiate their cultures and they clash. Amazon and Whole Foods venture, which, in spite of being one of the promising mergers, failed to create impact because of a cultural misfit.[ix]

Tracing back to ancient Europe, we see that the Roman Empire, the ancient mega-organization, was founded on the principle of res publica and sustained for more than 200 years. A closer look unveils that the imperial administration exercised both decentralized power and principles of minimal intervention. It maintained a fine balance between provincial versus centralized authority ensuring peace, law, and order on the one hand, and revenues and resources on the other.[x]

These centuries-old instances help us gauge the importance of organizational culture and behavior. Organizational synergy cannot be achieved unless the culture, management, and human resources of the merging entities are in sync. The peace agreements mentioned above can be a guiding strategy for the corporates today while designing the post-merger cultures.

Why Do Corporates Need to Plan for Sustenance?

“Corporate sustenance” beyond present reign depends on succession planning of a power base. Poor power transitions often impact organizations adversely. Confrontations and conflicts divided most of the religions apart. For example, Islam fragmented when prominent people got divided between the Shias and the Sunnis on the rightful inheritance of leadership after the Prophet Muhammad. This event teaches the importance of maintaining balance among “succession forces”—positive relations with leaders and also their supporters. Reliance Industries Limited reflected a similar pattern when the company split into two in 2005 because of the tension between two Ambani brothers. However, the organization revived after Mukesh Ambani had held rein of the business. Businesses can reflect on these historical events to make a cohesive and evolving work culture.

Power and Politics: Are They Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Now, we are on our third coordinate: Politics. Politics, at its core, is about the dynamics of power. In a government, a macro-organization, we see that the distribution of power varies across centralized and decentralized forms, in autocratic and democratic governments, in capitalist and communist rules, and so on. Also, within a government, we see the division of power between the states and the center, the houses of the parliament, the executive and the judiciary, the legislature and the judiciary, among various levels of the judiciary, the executive and the legislature, and many more.

Power distribution among various departments while working on cross-functional projects is very crucial. It is very important to understand whether any department can overrule the other department’s decision. Can any department curb the powers, aim, or budget of any other department?[xi]

Political Power Dynamics Can Help Us Arrive at Creative Solutions to Division of Power

Three major components of governance—the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary—have different relations and power distribution in different governments.

For instance, in India, the executive is answerable to the legislature and holds power till it has the legislature’s confidence. Whereas, the judiciary is an independent system that ensures the right conduct by the other two arms of the government. It has the right reserved to challenge any decision by the legislature or the executive and even strike it down. Although the judiciary is an independent entity the legislature can influence the judiciary system.

For projects in which strategy, execution, and compliance teams work together, this model can be helpful to ensure the right balance of power. Often within a party, executive decision power is diluted by the collective decision leading to performance criticism. As it happened to Dr Manmohan Singh, the former Finance Minister of India and one of the pioneers of Indian Financial Reforms, who faced extreme criticism during his regime for numerous corruption scandals and policy paralysis that were in place. When we look at business cases, we find Tata Sons and Cyrus Mistry indulged in conflict on the moves to reduce conglomerate debt. This resulted in an abrupt expulsion of Cyrus Mistry from the position of the chairman at Tata.

In the US, the political system is designed in a slightly different way. The executive has a strong veto power over the legislature, and only two-third majority can override the veto. Also, the legislative doesn’t have control over the executive. The judiciary has more power and is independent of the other two bodies.

A Combinatorial Approach

There can be different combinations of examples from each reference points of scatter space that can shed light on the various aspects of power distribution.

So far, we have seen three variables in our scatter space: football, history, and politics. We can express various power attributes, such as fostering power, control and authority, synergy, transition, and succession, as a combination of relations of these scatter variables. We can even try out different combinations of these coordinates of scatter place and arrive at another set of solutions with respect to organization’s distribution of power. For example, in a political system, the process of nurturing a political spokesperson is analogous to creating in-house leadership. The decline of the Byzantine Empire highlights the need for a strong succession planning.

Creativity: An Integral Approach in Differential Thinking

At an initial level, creativity and power seem quite unrelated to each other. But, mapping of different domain variables with an observed variable indeed needs creativity. Creativity triggers cues to discover a pattern. At times, these are a pattern of words, phrases, colors, thoughts, and of various other ways. From a broader organizational perspective, this pattern visualization is called strategy and vision. The CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, visualized the pattern of technology usage and translated that into one of the key business drivers—AWS (Amazon Web Services). Thus, creativity exemplifies the power of contextualizing a contrasting thought. It has a double-edged impact on the principle of the Scatter Diagram. Creativity twines the scatter points together. Also, while applying the Scatter Diagram approach, we foster creativity in parallel. Hence, creativity is the heart of the Scatter Diagram and one of the most influencing parameters.

Scatter Diagram is a continuous process. This can be applied even if you have a different problem statement and a different set of points. Each experience of problem-solving with a Scatter Diagram widens the scatter space and so does the diversity of solutions. And the process goes on. However, as the saying goes, “Practice makes a man perfect,” similarly, the efficiency of our mind depends on the frequency of application of the Scatter Diagram. Every time our mind traces back the scatter points and associates with problem-solving, it develops both System Thinking and Creativity. Gradually, we arrive at “out-of-the-box solutions” from our existing experiences.

Ushasi Sengupta is a research analyst at Tata Consultancy Services. She completed her Post Graduate Diploma in General Management from XLRI, Jamshedpur in 2019. She is a sports enthusiast. Other than working from home and working for home, in parallel, she is spending her quarantined days exploring the unchartered territories. Running is her newly developed habit.

We are grateful to Mr. Shahrukh Moin Khan for drafting the foundation version of this article.




[iii] Obisi, C. (2003)., “Organizational Behavior Concepts and Applications”. Malthance Press Ltd, Lagos.

[iv] “Beckham drives Madrid to top of money league”

[v] Vanderschee, D. 2002. “Crown Point Cabinetry.”

[vi] Hu, C. and Ramsey, L. May 2018. “The rise and fall of Theranos, the blood-testing startup that went from a rising star in Silicon Valley to facing fraud charges over a wild 15-year span.”

[vii] Weber, M. (1978). “Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology (G. Roth & C. Wittich, Eds.).”, Berkeley: University of California Press. (Original work published 1921)

[viii] Christine Porath and Christine Pearson, “The Price of Incivility”, Harvard Business Review,

[ix] Gelfand, M, “One Reason Mergers Fail: The Two Cultures Aren’t Compatible.” Harvard Business Review,

[x] Maier, F. 1995. “Megaorganisation in Antiquity: The Roman Empire.” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE) / Zeitschrift Für Die Gesamte Staatswissenschaft, 151 (4), 705–713,

[xi] Zaleznik, A. May 1970. “Power and Politics in Organizational Life.” Harvard Business Review,

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Leadership Mind Organizational Behaviour

The Man and the People

The Man and the People

November 11, 2020

The evening betrayed the weather forecast. The overcast sky—a shroud of dark clouds—poured with rain. Thin trees kowtowed to the ferocity of the wild wind. Baby coconuts pitter-pattered on wet roads. The street lights wore a somber yellow and dabbed its mood on the serpentine traffic of Bengaluru, queued like ants to reach home. 

Sriram stepped out of the car, which had no choice but to not move, and walked towards the hotel so as not to arrive late for his appointment. 

In his expensive suit, he carted his expectations through the emotionally numb traffic jam. The unannounced arrival of the rain flooded his expectations, leaving not an inch of dry cloth on his suit. 

From the cafeteria of the hotel, I could see the creases on his forehead at war with his efforts to stay calm. His chest-wide, back-straight posture strived to conceal his frustration. 

He arrived earlier than time. The overly polite receptionist, like a nincompoop robot, smiled for few seconds before registering Sriram’s request to show him the washroom. 

Our last conversation had been sort of a satisfying climax to a difficult puzzle that demanded multiple discussions. To stay humble at the height of success is Sriram’s most prized value, in his “humble opinion.” Finally, we did identify his core value, after rigorously evaluating all possible options (=values) against a yardstick of “How does this make me feel as a human being—good? bad?” 

The climax had been worth it.

In his oversized shirt and loose trousers, he jolted me out of my musing.

“Luckily, on my way to the office I took my father’s delivery from the dry cleaner,” he said. The mysterious disappearance of the slick suit made sense. 

“How is your core value shaping your life since we last spoke?”

“I think I become too humble with my subordinates. I don’t think it is necessary.”

“You think—what? What do you mean?” That was an unnecessary question to a rhetorical premise. He would have continued his argument anyway. I sounded unlike me. 

“For example, I make efforts to wish my subordinates ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Good Afternoon’ every day, talk to them, etc. I don’t see much efforts from their side to strike a conversation with me or to greet me. I am their boss! It should be the other way around, shouldn’t it?” He presented his case straight from his heart—with a loud and clear question tag. 

“Why on earth do you need their approval to treat them well? Please continue wishing them, even if they don’t return your wishes. How they treat you is irrelevant. How you treat them is important and reflects your confidence.” I replied. 

A brief silence seeped in the conversation. It stayed with us. No one made any attempt to disturb it. 

Sriram understood. 

“Identify what you can control. It helps.” I closed the session. 

“Good Night,” he said.

I didn’t reply.

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CEO Mentoring Leadership Mind Organizational Behaviour

Deepest, Darkest Desires

Deepest, Darkest Desires

September 4, 2020

“My problem is that I find everyone inadequate and  substandard.” My first-ever conversation with John—a successful leader of a company on the verge of becoming a CEO—started on a note no less bizarre than his unrealistic standards of excellence.

“I haven’t met anyone decent in my life so far, let alone excellent. I don’t find anyone inspiring or motivating.”

What about the bright people you meet regularly?

“No. They are all daft. It takes me enormous self-control to not be judgmental towards them.”

The gentleman had an eerie confidence in his claims.

How may I help you?

“It is hard for me to approach someone for help. But, for once, I am ready to be on the other side of the table to see how I can work on this apparently unresolvable pattern in me.”

No matter whatever is going on inside you, the truth is that you are famous. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone, it is fine, isn’t it?

“No. I have ambitions. I want to be the CEO. I want to be on the cover page of magazines like Forbes and Time. I can’t reach there until I sort this mess out and figure out how to overcome this bloody thing going on inside me.”

John was brutally honest about his ambitions and shortcomings. His voice softened as he started talking about his personal life. It turned out that he had a compulsive habit of chasing the unattainable and ignoring what he already had. Though married to a beautiful, successful woman, he was emotionally vulnerable. He made his wife feel intellectually inferior. With time, she was repulsed by him. It is the deprivation of relationships that eventually took a toll on him.

Okay. What is the guarantee that you are teachable, given how talented you are?

“Oh, boy! Don’t underestimate my learning ability. I am a sucker of knowledge. Moreover, my money would be a stake. For me, nothing matters more to me than my money. This is why I tolerate daftness.”

Stop using that word. Daft. Please.

I want to. I also want to win my wife back. And, I want to be a better father.

Let’s hope so.


*John isn’t the real name of the individual.

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Leadership Mind Organizational Behaviour

The Two People

The Two People

April 29, 2020

You reveal what you hide when you need to hide it the most. Long suppressed and hidden, the darkness within you oozes out of the concealed pores underneath your light, flawless make-up. Your face of authenticity becomes feeble in comparison to the authentic mask of the dark. The ugly person inside you peeps out, giving you away.

Like everyone else, you have a side you dislike about yourself. The more you dislike the truth, the more you try to keep it away from public view. You start denying the existence of this part so strongly that it becomes an independent, rebellious entity in itself. Rather than your controlling it, it starts controlling you. You feel intimidated by its existence but can’t eliminate it either. What choice do you have?

Let the two people—the beautiful and the ugly; the good and the bad; the one that lusts for appreciation and the other that has the I-don’t-care-what-you-think attitude; the original and the duplicate; the dogmatic and the openminded—that you are accept each other. By accepting the ugly person, you nullify its power on you and create possibilities of making it your source of strength. How our weaknesses birth our strengths is a telling paradox.

Pawan, a partner at a boutique consulting firm, had deep insecurities and an obsessive need to hide them. If he noticed the slightest of change in people’s facial expressions during his interactions, he would feel worried about the impression he would have created. His overconfidence would often come in conflict with his hidden insecurity. His efforts to appear confident would have the reverse effect on his colleagues, who, by then, knew how to leverage his insecurities. They would throw a doubtful expression at him, maintain a strategic silence, or praise other partners to disturb his peace of mind. To be disliked or considered less was his nightmare, and to please them, he would dole out a freebie, bonus, promotion, or leave, depending on his insecurity quotient on that day. It reached a peak as he started spending his own money to buy people’s approval. When his bank balance took a massive hit, further worsened by no progress in his career, he realized that he had to stop. Stop did he but relapsed in a week, neutralizing all the confidence he had built by resisting his insecurities. It didn’t take him long to identify his self-destructive patterns.

Though Pawan was aware of his problem, it cost him a major setback to acknowledge his deep insecurities. We worked together to enable his insecurity to be friends with his outer confidence. Pawan, over a period of 16 months, channeled his insecurities into creating extraordinarily rare output at work. With rigorous practice, he transformed his tendency to read expressions into a powerful capacity to objectively empathize with people. He earned recognition and respect.

Pawan still feels insecure but now this insecurity fuels value creation for him.


*Name has been changed to protect the identity.

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