Confident, Arrogant or Ignorant – How is your Personal Brand Perceived?

This article was originally published by Procurious in 2022.

Much like the old idiom “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, sometimes it’s difficult – if not impossible – to gauge how others perceive you at work. But no matter how difficult it is, it’s extremely important to understand how you are perceived by colleagues, peers, subordinates and managers alike. 

Your personal brand is critical to having a successful career in procurement. You need to know how to effectively and confidently  manage stakeholders, without coming across as either arrogant or ignorant, in order to make sure you get successful outcomes from projects and move yourself up through the ranks.

How we are perceived by others is challenging. But having an understanding of ourselves and how we come across can be just as challenging, if not more so. With that in mind, here’s a few pointers from the experts on how you can do that ‘self check’ and make sure your confidence isn’t perceived in any other way.

What Confidence Looks Like

We all start our working career thinking that intelligence and hard work will get us where we want to be. These qualities are extremely important, but so is the ability to confidently create positive relationships with stakeholders, which will include a diverse mix of suppliers, peers and executives, in our organisations. 

But what exactly does confidence look like? 

Confidence, according to experts, isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. Dharmesh Shah, Co-Founder of internet marketing sensation HubSpot, has met with hundreds of millionaires and hugely successful entrepreneurs in his time. He believes that confidence is often the opposite of what you might think: 

“Confidence is not bravado, or swagger, or an overt pretence of bravery. Confidence is not some bold or brash air of self-belief directed at others. Confidence is quiet. Confidence is a natural expression of ability, expertise and self-regard.” 

So, far from being the loudest person in the room, having the most intimidating body language or outward signs of success, confidence is a lot more subtle than that. Experts also say that if you’re truly confident, you’ll express your confidence in the following ways: 

  • You won’t be afraid to be wrong. 
  • You’ll listen more than you speak. 
  • You won’t actively seek attention and won’t always have to be in the spotlight.
  • You won’t wait for opportunities to be handed to you. 

What Arrogance Looks Like

While you are likely to run across plenty of arrogant people in your working life, many won’t be arrogant by choice, but will be seen this way as they try to display too much overt confidence. And when your confidence crosses the line, it’s not going to have a positive outcome for you.

There are subtle but important differences between arrogance and confidence, says psychotherapist Toni Coleman:

“Confidence is a manifestation of belief in one’s abilities. In contrast, arrogance is an aggressive posting in which someone tries to project self-assurance and confidence. However, arrogant people often suffer from low self-esteem and feelings of low self-worth.” 

Arrogance can be expressed in many ways, but if you are truly arrogant (or behave like this in a professional situation), you’re probably guilty of the following: 

  • You ignore other people’s opinions. 
  • You talk over others. 
  • You don’t give your colleagues credit for their ideas.
  • You can’t accept feedback from anyone. 

What Ignorance Looks Like

Procurement is one of those professions where you definitely need to be in the know. When it comes to market conditions, supplier intel, contract details, or just about anything else, a high level of attention to detail and expert knowledge is almost always required.

However, in the same way that confidence can cross into arrogance, it can also be mistaken for ignorance. This isn’t ignorance in the way of not being smart or being over-confident in your decision making, but it’s the behaviour that rails against change and opinions that don’t match up with your own. 

And being perceived as ignorant in this way is one of the worst things you can be. 

According to Lisa Stephenson, founder of The Coach Place Global, “we all want to work with people we like. But not everyone is like us.” Or, perhaps more on the nose, as English philosopher Bertrand Russell said:

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

Being unconcerned about negative behaviour is the exact opposite of what good supplier and stakeholder management looks like. Look out for the following as signs that you might be coming across as ignorant: 

  • You fall into the category of people thinking and saying, “this is the way it’s always been, so it’s the way things should be”. 
  • You defend processes for no good reason, even if they’re doing more harm than good.
  • You fear change of any kind.
  • Your default answer to everything is no. 

With everything that Procurement and Supply Chain has gone through over the past few years, and is still going through at the moment, it’s easy to forget about your personal brand and how you come across to your colleagues. But, in truth, it’s the exact opposite. It’s critically important not to let your guard down, understand not only your own behaviour, but how your behaviour, personality and brand are perceived in your organisation.

After all, no matter how much we would prefer it not to be the case, it does matter what other people think. Particularly about us.