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Should You Use Arrogance Or Humility To Climb The Corporate Ladder?


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I like to read the career posts on LinkedIn and this blog by James Michael Lafferty caught my eye. The first thing that struck me was the fact that it was an article about corporate success written by a CEO, but it talked about the value of humility. Lafferty tells a story of a friend of his who had achieved a decent amount of success, but gave it all up to take on a new challenge.


This article was an interesting read, but it gets even more interesting when you read a little deeper into the details. Lafferty is an aggressive professional, but with a philanthropic side to him. It appears as though he operates more with confidence, and tempers his attitude only slightly with humility. His reverence for humility as it is described in the article is both fascinating, and a bit confusing.

But what really caught my eye was one of the comments on the article that took the subject of humility versus arrogance head-on. The comment suggested that one professional tried to use humility to succeed, but he was eclipsed by a person riding a wave of arrogance. All of that got me wondering if you need to be humble to find corporate success, or if you need to be arrogant to get where you want to go.

Humility In Your Approach

I started to think about humility versus arrogance, and I believe I have discovered the recipe for corporate success. The article talks about someone who has a humble approach to their career. They accept challenges because they want to be challenged, and then they are willing to tumble to the very bottom of the corporate ladder just to climb back up again.

As I thought about it, I realized that this is not a person who allows themselves to get walked all over and used by others. This is a self-assured professional who believes in themselves and wants to conquer great challenges to feel a sense of accomplishment. I would even go so far as to challenge the use of the word "humility" in this context. To me, this is just an example of a supremely confident individual who bets on themselves and wins.

Sprinkle In Some Arrogance

Lafferty never really indicates whether or not this individual is arrogant in the way they deal with people. It is one thing to agree to fall to the bottom of the corporate ladder for the thrill of the challenge, it is quite another thing to re-climb that ladder and find success again.

Could it be called arrogance that convinced this individual that they could conquer the corporate world twice in two different disciplines? I think that too many people confuse arrogance with confidence. Arrogance is a feeling of accomplishment without actually doing anything to create that feeling, while confidence is a positive feeling gained from experience. In this instance, I think we are talking more about confidence than arrogance and if you look at it that way, then it is easy to see the pieces fit together.

Balancing Your Attack

I have always believed that a successful person needs to be confident and humble at the same time. A humble person admits that they have more to learn, and then the confidence in them pushes them to go learn new things and apply them to their career.

I would challenge the comment in this article and suggest that they did not get run over by someone who was arrogant. I would say that they were beaten by someone who had that perfect balance of humility and confidence that every successful corporate person needs.

When it comes to climbing the corporate ladder, I don't believe that arrogance gets you anywhere. I also don't believe that humility is enough to take you to the corporate promised land either. But when you can mix some confidence in with that humility, then you have the right recipe for success.
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