The Pros And Cons Of Arrogance: Jonny's Story

The Pros And Cons Of Arrogance: Jonny's Story
BACK TO Insights

I'm often asked how I found my way into business.

People assume I must've been supremely confident and maybe a little arrogant to walk into some CEO's office, tell 'em how great I was, and 'fake it till I made it', despite having had previously limited business experience.

The truth was something quite different.

In this article discuss the pros and cons of arrogance. Does it come at a cost?

What’s wrong with a bit of arrogance and bravado, is it really that bad?

Surely we need a little bit of it in business?

This was a question a client asked me the other day.

“How do we win a pitch without it? How do we stand up in front of people and convince them to hire us, to buy our product or agree to follow us without it?”

“Don't we need at least a touch of ego to lead?” - They went on to debate.

It was a fun exercise because at FROM:TODAY we spend our lives telling leaders that leadership is an act of service; that it is their responsibility to create environments where people can excel, where people can be themselves, can speak up, can disagree, where they care for their work and for each other.

So here’s my perspective and my personal experience with an inflated ego, arrogance and bravado.

Was it all bad? Well, in truth, it got me quite far.

As many of you know, I used to be an actor.

I went to an elite drama school which only accepted 30 people per year out of approx 10k applicants. I then worked all over the world, performing to thousands of people.

To put it mildly, I thought I was the nuts!

I would walk in a room knowing I had the job before I opened my mouth. I never worried about not getting it, if I didn't, I knew I'd get the next one and the people who didn't hire me were ‘idiots’.

This blind arrogance worked. I felt invincible.... for a bit.

However, 2 things happened, and they happened fast.

1. The jobs I got were relatively toxic. You attract what you project. I would be employed by people who also traded on their ego and in nearly every case the quality of the work was poor and the personality clashes were biblical.

2. I started to miss out on the jobs I wanted. Those ‘idiots’ all had something in common, they didn’t hire me. Were they right? Was I in fact the idiot?  My confidence became so fragile and my mental health took a pounding. I started worrying about everything, was I too fat, too thin, too short, were my teeth too goofy for tv, was I just rubbish? me me me me me.

So what happened? What changed?

Well, I got a little older, a little wiser.

I realised that what I loved, what was important to me, my castmates and my directors was connecting to the audience and leading them through a story so that they could ask themselves life’s important questions or so they could just have a bloody good time at the theatre and leave their troubles at the door. They didn't care about me, physically. They had no interest in paying good money to watch me show off. And I could only take them on that journey if I got over myself and served them and the playwright.

I had purpose.

As a member of a company it became so important that we all started working towards something, together, for the betterment of each other and our audience.

And guess what, by forgetting about myself, I got better. I become more secure, my performances become more consistent, the quality of the work improved astronomically. I was open to ideas and was excited and stimulated by other people’s successes. It was a game changer.

So why is this relevant?

If you are a leader or aspire to be one, think about this:

We attract what we project.

If you use ego and arrogance, be prepared for fireworks, or should I say hand grenades, that aren’t about the work but about an individual's desire to be right. Expect poor retention rates across your company, expect burnout and expect a lot of politics.

You might get stuff done but at what cost?


If you want sustainable, consistent performance with great retention, diverse people and diverse brains, create environments where your people can be themselves.

Where they’re empowered to make decisions and give feedback honestly.

Where there’s space to be present with their work.

Where there’s clear meaning, direction and purpose.

Create this environment and you’ll have an organisation where people truly care about their work, the people around them and the success of the company.

Create this environment and you give yourself, your people and your organisation every chance of success.

So do I think inflated ego/arrogance is all bad?  Not necessarily, but it comes at a cost to you and the people around you. Be careful.

By Jonny de Mallet Morgan, Co-Founder & Chief Vision Officer at FROM:TODAY, 24.05.2024