Sukh Pabial wrote a post on speaking Truth to Power. It’s worth checking out here as it raises a very interesting question about how you can cultivate organisational voice and how organisations can create conditions for individuals to speak out.
It also raised for me the interesting concept of which individuals are most likely to speak out – and so I suggested that this might be a situation in which someone who is arrogant might be ‘organisationally useful’. It is fair to say that this did not go down well with people… Or it went down very well in the way that a lead balloon goes down very well. The idea of arrogant people being anything other than an organisational liability was not one of my more popular proposals.
I’m not writing this blog in defence of arrogant people, I’m writing this because I think strengths and weaknesses are largely conceptual and contextual.
- One person’s attention to detail is another person’s micromanagement
- One person’s clear vision is another person’s lack of flexibility
- One person’s charisma is another person’s attention seeking behaviour
- One person’s unswerving mission to be heard is another person’s arrogance
If I was looking for one person to speak up in an organisation and ignore the constraints of hierarchy then I think a likely candidate to do that would be arrogant. They would be a person who just had to be heard and was convinced that the boss is wrong (even if the boss was more experienced and had more information than them). That’s my greatest percentage chance of success.
If you want people to speak truth to power then an arrogant person armed with the truth is really quite a good one to deploy. A bit like knowing someone who can’t be concise is quite useful if you are in a position where you are stalling for time. It wouldn’t be a trait you would normally want someone to possess, but it can be handy in the right situation.
It’s a bit unpalatable thinking that people’s worst traits might be useful – and indeed most of the time people’s worst traits are just their worst traits, but I do think it is worth thinking about strengths in the workplace in the richest sense – and that includes being open to bad things being used in good ways.