The Leader’s Greatest Enemy

What does every warrior leader fear most in his men?

What is the coach most afraid of when his team is unbeatable?
“People can only be great when they are humble,

when they lose humility they cease to be great”

Arrogance is the leader’s greatest enemy both for himself and his men. The hardest challenge for a leader of warriors is to keep his men humble. The warrior leader is not fooled by false pretenses. It is not whether his men are tense and make mistakes where the average person would respond that the solution is to relax. The warrior leader knows that these things are not a problem; arrogance is the true problem, for if his men are free from arrogance and are humble they are teachable. It is easy to solve problems when people are teachable.

“Objectivity + Teachability = Humility”

How does a leader keep his men humble? This is not an easy question to answer because there is only so much a leader can do and the rest is up to the individual. But I will attempt to outline the steps a leader must use to prevent arrogance from setting in.

TrainingThe most effective weapon in a leader’s arsenal to battle arrogance is enforced humility. It is the leader’s job to know how and when to administer enforced humility. Some of you are probably wondering what enforced humility is so I will come up with a definition.

“Enforced humility is humility forced upon an individual or group of people by those in authority who are taking measures to remove arrogance. Note the word “force” because most of the time force is necessary to snap people out of arrogance and back to reality. Appeasement doesn’t work any better for individuals then it does in foreign policy towards other nations all it does is embolden individuals and countries making matters worse because they will always come back for more, thinking they can get their way again.

In the military a leader forces humility upon his men or individuals to keep or put them back in their place. I like to call this a “reality check” or an “attitude check”. Enforced humility gives the soldier a chance to see and confront his arrogance. We have all experienced enforced humility throughout our lives. For most of us it started in the home with our parents teaching us to behave and so forth by punishing us or making us do something we did not want to do, like brush our teeth pick up our room make our bed, etc. For us who served in the military we received a lot of enforced humility from the Drill Sergeants.

A leader must be careful to use truth in combating arrogance in his men
because truth makes us aware of our arrogance and gives us a chance to
humble ourselves.

A leader must learn to recognize arrogance when it begins to set in
because it is easiest to combat at its early stages. Some people go through their whole lives with arrogance always blaming someone or something never facing reality and taking responsibility.

The first step a leader must take is to fully understand what arrogance is, how it operates and what it is capable of.

I. Arrogance is self deception, delusion, unreality and when perpetuated it becomes insanity.

II. Here is a simple breakdown on how arrogance operates:

1. self-justification
2. self-deception
3. self-absorption

The three steps above form a pattern of human behavior operating in
arrogance that has been consistent throughout time. A leader must learn to look for these indicators. They will allow him to recognize arrogance in his men and himself by observing the way he or his men react to different events that occur each day. These indicators can also give you some insight as to the degree of arrogance you are dealing with which usually becomes obvious by the degree of stubbornness not able to let something go or look at something with objectivity and so on. The more difficult to reason with usually the more arrogance you are dealing with. I would like to point out that holding on to truth is not arrogance but one needs to learn that sometimes life is unfair and one must learn to face life’s consequences being able to suck it up as we would say and move on and put it behind us.

Self-justification is easily recognized when an individual becomes defensive and tries to explain or prove that they are free of any blame.

Self-deception is the next step in the pattern and this is when an individual deceives themselves into thinking they are right.

Self-absorption is the last step in the pattern and this is when a person becomes selfish and everything centers on them. This is a dangerous phase because if carried to an extreme it produces conditions like bitterness, jealously, hatred, and vindictiveness. If the self-absorption or indulgence is carried too far a person will form psychosis like narcissism, split personalities and other conditions.

There are many forms of arrogance forming a complex through which there is any number of ways one can enter and when one enters into the complex of arrogance it is like quicksand sucking you in deeper and deeper if you do not wakeup. The leader also knows that arrogance is a contagious cancer and must be stopped or cut out before it infects his men. This is the way mob violence, and mutiny grows within the ranks.

All the many forms of arrogance seem to function in a similar way, always blinding people from reality which makes it easy to identify when one knows what to look for and uses the indicators. Some examples of arrogance are iconoclastic arrogance. This is where a person worships someone placing them on a pedestal and they can do no wrong. Some people call this hero worship but anyway the reason I bring this one up is because it puts leaders in precarious position because he knows he is only human and when that hero worshiper sees his faults that person will go from friend to foe attacking and trying to destroy him.

Another form of arrogance that leaders are likely to encounter are guilt where a person cannot let go of an incident they may or may not be responsible for causing them to dwell on it and not perform their duties to their fullest. I think most of us have seen many types of arrogance but perhaps called them by another name maybe not even knowing they were a form of arrogance. For example stubbornness is a form of arrogance.

The biggest challenge for a leader is to counteract arrogance. In the military strict discipline is the best remedy for preventing arrogance and coincidentally the units with the best discipline always outperform the units with lax standards. Unfortunately most of the time the remedy calls for a swift kick in the ass but our society has degenerated to a point where we cater to arrogance instead of remedying it. A great example was in World War II when General Patton slapped a coward with the intent of snapping him out of his arrogance of feeling sorry for himself. Most of us know the incident and instead of the soldier being punished General Patton received a dose of enforced humility and one of our best generals was temporarily put on the sidelines.

“Humility + concentration + confidence = The greatest happiness”

The leader knows that confidence and courage of a soldier is intensified by the increase of knowledge in his skill. But the leader also knows that knowledge often creates arrogance and this he must guard against. An example is when he sends one of his men to a special school and the soldier comes back thinking he knows it all but in most cases he only know s enough to be dangerous to himself and his fellow soldiers. This we see a lot in young people that attend school and come home disrespecting their parents thinking they know more than they do.

“A person unlearns arrogance when he knows he is always among worthy human beings; being alone fosters presumption. Young people are arrogant because they always associate with their own peers, those who are all really nothing but who would like to be very important”.
– Friedrich Nietzsche

“Ignorance produces arrogance”

Ignorance also produces arrogance. We see this all the time especially when we turn on the news. People asking questions and people answering questions about things they know nothing about instead of saying I do not know. Then it gets worse as they defend and argue their opinions about things they know nothing about. I feel for our soldiers on the battlefield with all the opinions being expressed on ROE (Rules of Engagement) and the Monday morning quarterbacking of people who have no knowledge or experience to render a qualified opinion.

“Arrogance distorts everything in life and humility puts truth in perspective in life”.

There is no profession in life that a man can be truly great in without humility. I have had the privilege on more than a few occasions to have been trained, coached and lead by some truly great people and the one thing they all had in common was humility. They all had far different personalities but they were always curious to learn or find a better way to improve which was what enabled them to rise to greatness.

All good leaders know that humility is the foundation of all other virtues and there is no greater human trait that a leader can give his men than to have humility.

“A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.” – General Robert E. Lee


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