Navigating the line between confidence and arrogance: Isn't healthcare really a service industry?

By Brad Dodge on January 5th, 2011

Do you remember the movie Malice where Alec Baldwin played a cardio-thoracic surgeon? Here's the clip where he denies having a God complex, but rather asserts that he actually IS God. Not much of a fine line there. His arrogance is overflowing. Physicians are often saddled with the "arrogant" stereotype, and there are certainly those that deserve the title. And patients often tolerate arrogance, perhaps because they believe that arrogance just comes along with a high level of intellect or ability. Right?But what about the millions of physicians, athletes, actors and heads of state and other bigwigs who also possess extraordinary levels of intellect, competence, experience and insight, yet manage to maintain an appropriate level of humility when dealing with mere mortals like you and me? How do they do it?The subject of arrogance vs. confidence surfaces whenever we're interviewing for new talent at our agency. Ideally, we're looking for individuals who are talented, experienced, insightful and confident in their ability. But most importantly, we're looking for humility, because that's the preeminent trait of the best employees. Arrogance is poison in a service business like ours.

That's where the fine line comes in. Healthcare as an industry is rich with talent, and the very nature of caring for someone's health implies that service-oriented, humble people are everywhere.This article from Mike Myatt compares leadership styles in business between say, a Michael Dell and a Donald Trump. He makes some poignant observations:"While arrogant people can and often do succeed in business I believe that it comes at a great personal and professional cost. Arrogance rarely results in lasting relationships built on a foundation of loyalty and trust. Rather arrogant people typically find themselves surrounded by exploitive individuals who are all too happy to ride the "gravy-train" in good times, but at the first sign of trouble all you will see is their backs as they run for the hills.The confident also succeed in business, but not at the expense of others as do the arrogant. You'll find confident leaders have broader spheres of influence, attract better talent, engender more confidence, and earn more loyalty and respect than do those that lead with solely with bravado."A few comments from others:"If what you’re seeking is lasting relationships, long-term success and quality of life in all areas then you will be better served to forego the pompous acts of the arrogant for the humility and quiet confidence displayed by true leaders.”"Confident people are totally okay with other people knowing nothing about what they have accomplished.”"I think you can always tell how confident a person is about themselves by the way they respect or treat the ‘little people,’ they never look like they are trying hard to impress other people, and never put others down around them to come out the better person.”As an employer, we will continue to search for confident, competent individuals and try to sniff out signs of arrogance. And we will continue to strive for an environment founded in humility with a focus on excellent service. It is a fine line. Our goal is 100% confidence, 0% arrogance.Best wishes for a very prosperous 2011 to all of our employees, our customers, our partners and other readers.