When is an OVER-Used Trait or Strength Okay?
Making Distinctions: When is an Overused Trait Okay?
Tilt Practitioners know that I often teach that overused traits and strengths are very effective unless they have a frequency problem associated with them. For example, as a leader, I can make a very strong point if I choose to be blunt on occasion, and people will respond to that with thoughts such as “Wow, she really means it and is convicted to what she just said….”. Yet, if I choose to be blunt dozens of times today, the frequency of that overused trait now takes on a whole different energy and intention.
I was recently talking with a colleague that is obviously exceptionally intelligent and has a particularly creative mind on many subjects. We were conversing about the overused trait of “arrogance” and I wanted to share my thoughts about the subject here with our Tilt readers.
Here’s the premise. An overused trait is only bad if it is an overcompensation for low self esteem or frustrated ego needs and has an underpinning of negative intention.
Here’s an example of how I think about this distinction about what is too much and what is not. This example comes from our discussion about leadership and the personal integrity a leader has to have to be confident about their vision when others don’t agree with them and may call them arrogant because of that lack of alignment:
The Psychology of the “UPPER LIMIT PROBLEM”:
Source: (Upper Limit Problem term is from a book called The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks).
One common problem in leadership development is that many would-be “great leaders” often tamp down their full talents to fit it. They even report feeling guilt and shame about not being “like everyone else” and how this causes resentment about their early successes. I see this common problem in my coaching practice more than one might think.
The Real Elephant in the Room
Taking on guilt for being more intelligent than the vast majority of people (bell curve) can sometimes render a course of shame that creates an upper limit problem (self-imposed glass ceiling) for the gifted individual and creates a temptation to overcompensate for the feeling of shame by tamping down their voice and rights to the vision they have. Those who are less insightful than the gifted visionary leader, are often the majority and are skilled at ensuring that the most intelligent are kept under the upper limit. This often begins in the family of origin and often the way it is shaped is to withhold love and acceptance if the child becomes more intelligent than the parents or other beloved favorite children. The desire for love and acceptance, in effect, trumps and limits the true potential of the unique genius of the gifted child and if this cycle is not corrected later in life they are doomed to underachieve what they could have if they understood the morale right they have to actualize their full potential. This right is one of our greatest treasures. To contribute one’s unique ideas to the world. And we count on our gifted thinkers to change the world in meaningful ways.
One drawback of our Herding Mentality
One of the strategies we (society) employ to keep our gifted thinkers “in their place”, is by labeling them as arrogant. If they want our approval, this will render them less effective in leading the way. They will succeed, beyond the standard of most others, but not to the full potential of their capability. Yet, truly gifted people must have an element of arrogance in their identity just to have the guts to challenge the status-quo. Would you ask Einstein or Edison or DaVinci or a more recent genius like Steve Jobs to stop being “arrogant” in their thinking (specifically, that they can do and create things the world has never seen?)….and ask them to trade that for acceptance? Isn’t it really a little bit of hubris that causes one to push beyond what is already known and accepted as correct? If we ask this of our great thinkers and leaders, then we don’t advance as a result of their genius! And we don’t enjoy the fruits of their arrogant propositions. I, for one, don’t want to live without electricity and my Mac Air.
The Development Lesson:
The gifted person must accept that they will always be perceived as arrogant by some who are less confident. Knowing this allows them to go forward with their convictions, believing in their vision but remaining balanced enough to treat other with respect, dignity and honor their right to be different and express their own voice. Acknowledging guilt and shame MUST be put into perspective and shifted. This will have the effect of unleashing energy for potential. (Inner conflict robs great amounts of energy).
The Distinction of the Underlying Intention:
Truly immoral arrogance is of another brand. Hitler, Hussein, Bin Laden and others examples are also considered arrogant, but should be in a whole different category for important reasons. What is different? TWO KEY DISTINCTIONS. 1. Low self-esteem creates an overcompensation of arrogance that is considered by many as morally evil in its manifestation. This most often stems from a core identity formed by a negative reaction to frustrated needs (unmet needs in Belonging, Significance, Freedom and Autonomy). 2. Their underlying intention is not positive, but is instead focused on taking, consuming and disrespecting the rights of others (to life, freedom, choice etc.), instead of supporting, producing, creating, contributing and adding to rights of others (life). The relationship with the rights of others and to life in general is the key to understanding the continuum of good to evil. Moral to immoral. Right to wrong. Takers are vastly different than contributors.
My main point. You may not agree with me, and I am okay with that. I have a vision of my own and believe in the right we all have to actualizing our voice in the world. My intention is to contribute. Whether I do or not, will be contained in the history of my profession, long beyond my own life.
Pam Boney, Author and Executive Coach