When the previously undefeated UFC fighter Ronda Rousey fell in a shocking loss to underdog Holly Holm, armchair sports commentators piled on the hate: "Serves her right - she's so full of herself," or "She's washed up!" and certainly countless more comments not fit for print. Humans love comeuppance.
Recently, UFC commentator Joe Rogan offered a more thoughtful take on Rousey's fall from glory, pointing specifically to two factors that can also be the downfall of any business leader: lack of focus and arrogance.
1. Lack of Focus
This one is obvious enough - Rousey was distracted by the outside business of book deals, movie deals, television cameos, etc. She made the mistake of believing that her core business as an athlete was so buttoned up that she could venture into these side projects without compromise.
Entrepreneurs can face this challenge as they launch new product lines, service areas, or ancillary programs. Under the right circumstances, these are all great tools for growth...so long as they are not undermining the health of the business area that supports the overall health of the organization.
Rousey also neglected to focus on - and objectively size up - her competitor. Holly Holm is a world-class boxing champion with a competitive advantage as a striker vs. a grappler. Rogan points out that Rousey didn't change her strategy to deal with this very different fighter. And then what had worked so many times suddenly didn't.
Knowing your competitors, their strengths and weaknesses, and adapting accordingly can't be relegated to the back burner. At a minimum, an annual SWOT analysis can help you keep an eye on any competitors and business trends gaining speed in your rearview mirror. There's no rest for the weary, especially when you're on top...remember Kodak? Blockbuster?
A lack of focus may really be a symptom of a more dangerous condition, which brings us to our second Rousey downfall factor...
Merriam-Webster's defines arrogance as "an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions".
There's a line between confidence and arrogance that every leader must learn to walk. The difference between the two is humility. Humility fends off the overbearing and presumptuous qualities of arrogance.
Like many successful entrepreneurs, Rousey was flying high on a seemingly unbreakable string of wins and a crew of people in her ear, assuring her she was untouchable.
Enron is a classic example of arrogance overrunning a business, where Kenneth Lay opted to cook the books rather than owning up to weak business results. It doesn't have to be at that level to be dangerous, however. An arrogant leader may simply drive talent out, making it hard to keep a strong team.
How can a leader avoid this situation? First, make self-awareness a constant and known priority. If you are perceived as arrogant, it's unlikely that anyone on your team will be comfortable giving you that direct feedback. For that reason, an anonymous 360 survey can be instrumental.
Survey your whole staff, not just the people who tell you how great you are. Does your feedback indicate that you are a bad listener? Someone who doesn't pay attention, constantly interrupts, or is more interested in holding the spotlight than learning more about others?
These are all arrogance warning flags stemming from a facade of superiority, which sits in conflict with how others perceive you. Desmond Tutu said, "Arrogance really comes from insecurity, and in the end our feeling that we are bigger than others is really the flip side of our feeling that we are smaller than others."
Be gracious out loud every day, listen more, and give credit where credit is due.
What if these flags are present with someone on your team? If this person is early in his or her career, it can be coachable if you can afford the time and effort. But if you find toxic arrogance in someone mid-career or later, show that person the door.
There are deeply ingrained beliefs and behavior patterns at work that you don't have years to unwind, and the interim damage on your business can be brutal.
Naturally, you want to avoid hiring this person to begin with so learn to interview for humility and for strong skills in coaching and development. Fostering a culture of humility and discipline will help you avoid unexpected knockouts!