Arrogance is fatal. To succeed, you should learn to listen » SMEInsider

Arrogance is fatal. To succeed, you should learn to listen

We all know the old saying, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Sadly, as business figures become more and more successful, they often listen less and less to advice – with dire consequences.

Research by the New York University’s Stern School of Business found that, overall, the more powerful a person becomes in an organisation, the more value they place on poorly conceived snap judgements, the more closed off they become to others’ advice and, ultimately, the more likely they are to base their decisions on inaccuracies.

As Walter Chen has pointed out, this is not only unhelpful, it is not the way that the world’s best performing CEOs operate. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, admits that those that make the best decisions often change their minds on the way, because “they’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.”

Former Intel CEO Andy Grove also agrees that “information-gathering is the basis of all other managerial work,” and its importance cannot be underestimated. You can’t gather information if you’re primarily relying on your flawed pre-conceptions and refusing to engage with the advice and insight of those around you.

There’s a lot to be said for doing things differently, listening to your instincts and working hard to prove your critics wrong, but no one’s judgement is infallible. Many people confuse sticking to your guns on the things that really matter with simply being stubborn for the sake of saving face, especially as they move up the corporate food chain.

You may think that shooting down every shred of advice or contradictory approach makes you look stronger, but it doesn’t. Unless your decisions appear rationally founded and based on evidence, you will inevitably come across as petty and closed-off, as well as infuriating and demotivating your workforce and perhaps even alienating your clients or partners.

On the other hand, choosing your battles wisely and showing that you will at least contemplate others’ ideas will do far more for your credibility. It not only wins the respect of your colleagues, but means that when you do choose to take your own path, they are more likely to trust your judgement and throw themselves behind a daring idea, rather than mentally dismissing it as the folly of blind arrogance.