Confidence or Arrogance – Where is the line?

Confidence - ArroganceConfidence is a key to success – especially for leaders who need it themselves and also want to instill it in others. But at what point do you cross over the line from confidence to arrogance?

Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines these two words:

  • Con-fi-dence – a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something.
  • Ar-ro-gance – an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people.

Take a closer look at the following distinctions and see which side of the line you fall …

Confidence Arrogance
1. Has a point of view and is willing to speak up – even with a different or unpopular view. 1. His point of view is the only valid point of view. Mocks or dismisses others’ opinions if not his.
2. Willing to tackle a new challenge, and willing to admit mistakes or risk looking bad. 2. Willing to tackle a new challenge, but blames others and deflects mistakes or failures.
3. Self-aware; knows his strengths and weaknesses and willing to talk about these. 3. Sees his strengths and others’ weaknesses, but doesn’t recognize his weaknesses and others’ strengths. Brags.
4. Has healthy self-esteem and respect for others. 4. The world revolves around him. Uses others.
5. Comfortable in own skin. 5. Has to constantly promote and prove himself.
6. Attractive; people want to be around him. 6. Repulsive; people avoid him if they can.
7. Builds others up. 7. Promotes self at others’ expense.
8. Listens and learns; asks questions. 8. Knows it all.
9. Committed to being the best he can be. 9. Must be better than everyone else.
10. Builds trust. 10. Destroys trust.


Most of us would like to think we’re confident – not arrogant.

But the real test is to ask others on which side of the line you fall. And if you think you’re more confident than arrogant, but others disagree, be assured: they are wrong. Or they are confident (or arrogant) enough to speak up despite the risk of being put down.

Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. As a leadership consultant and executive coach, he helps leaders develop maximize confidence and minimize arrogance. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.