‘The most ineffective leaders are those that have the dangerous combination of both arrogance and ignorance.’

They do not learn.

I was recently in a forum group who asked ‘Who are the most difficult types of leaders to coach?’. It was a tough question to answer because honestly, in recent years, I haven’t been asked to complete Executive Leadership Coaching this type of person. The answer is simple on reflection – the most difficult type of leader to coach ISN’T looking to be coached. They already believe they have it all figured out. In my experience, the most difficult (and dangerous) type of leader is the one who has a blend of both arrogance and ignorance. A recent Forbes article discusses the devastating individual and organisational consequences of working with ineffective leaders.

They are the leader that believes in their own self-importance more than anything else. In the face of being shown that their idea or view is wrong (and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) rather than apologising or changing their mind, they double down on their view. They make the people around them wrong. They blame others. They look in every direction for where the problem may lay (see our post on the AIR/BLEEDS Responsibility Model) – except in the direction that will actually have an impact – inwards.

When we talk about toxic leaders and toxic workplaces, more often than not, you will find a leader who has a blend of arrogance and ignorance at their core. You do not have to look very hard in public life to see leaders demonstrating this horrible blend of arrogance and ignorance. But it doesn’t need to be this way.

Great Leaders Are Humble Learners
Great Leaders Are Humble Learners

Great leaders take the time to listen to their people, they read widely and deeply and seek to understand what is going on around them (and their business). They are decisive and clear in their decision making, and yet, they can apologise, acknowledge and ‘own’ when they have been wrong.

The true leaders are humble and learn from mistakes – they are not arrogant and ignorant.