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According to Elizabeth Bernstein of The Wall Street Journal, this is increasingly how everyone talks. “Some people can’t seem to tell the difference between sharing positive information that others might actually want to know and flat-out crowing,” she writes. “Let me help: Bragging involves comparison, whether stated or implied.”
However, Bernstein says, the problem is unlikely to go away: “In a society of unrelenting competition—where reality-show contestants duke it out for the approval of aging celebrities and pastors have publicists—is it any wonder we market ourselves relentlessly?”
If we were to consult Peter Drucker, a confident but not a haughty man, he would say that “the proudest boast any executive can make” is to have “built the team that will perpetuate” one’s work, vision and institution. But that doesn’t mean Drucker advocated boasting. For the most part, he considered arrogance to be a danger to individuals and to businesses.
Arrogance could take many forms. In Management Challenges for the 21stCentury, Drucker warned against “intellectual arrogance,” noting that “far too many people—especially people with great expertise in one area—are contemptuous of knowledge in other areas or believe that being bright is a substitute for knowledge.”
In Managing the Nonprofit Organization, Drucker warned of “righteous arrogance,” the sort that can cause innovators to be so “proud of their innovation that they are not willing to adapt it to reality.”
Drucker believed that arrogance was unavoidable in some circumstances. “If the need is for the ability to command in a perilous situation, one has to accept a [Benjamin] Disraeli or a Franklin D. Roosevelt and not worry too much about their lack of humility,” he averred in The Effective Executive.
But even in a commander, arrogance can quickly curdle into blindness and delusion. “The most charismatic American military leader was surely General Douglas MacArthur, and arguably the ablest one as well,” Drucker pointed out in The New Realities. “Yet in the end his charisma made him so arrogant that he brushed aside orders from President [Harry] Truman, his Commander-in-Chief, disregarded all the warnings of a Chinese counterattack in Korea and blundered into disastrous—and totally unnecessary—military defeat.”
Are arrogance and bragging on the rise—and should we worry about it? Why or why not?