Of all the human failings that can destroy a business, arrogance is the deadliest.  it is the most readily acquired, the easiest to justify, and the hardest to recognize in ourselves.

It’s different from greed, laziness, or dishonesty.  These faults are usually individual flaws, not contagious to entire companies.  We know them when we see them, and we know they are wrong.  When they are detected, correction is usually swift, certain, and severe.

But arrogance?

When we’re successful, we reason, don’t we deserve a bit of special consideration?  Aren’t we important enough to avoid the everyday annoyances and the tedious responsibilities that ordinary mortals must endure?  No one is “entitled” to be dishonest or greedy, but a bit of smugness, well, that’s just natural in a leader.  We accept it.  We even nurture it as a sign of success.

But arrogance can infect all the employees in a company with the silent destructiveness of a computer virus.  After all, if the company is making money big-time, and everyone in the shop has a chip on their shoulder, then shoulder chips are right, proper, and normal, aren’t they?  It’s like the few, the proud, the marines.  Okay for landing on contested beaches, but dangerous when carved into the brain pans of, say, envelope makers.

How do you know when you’re getting arrogant? When the only people you care to listen to or deal with are either at your own level or above it.

Mackay’s Moral: Arrogance is believing you’re so high up that you don’t have to keep an ear to the ground.

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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