Leadership Without Selfishness

By definition, pride is a high or inordinate opinion of self dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, or attitude. According to the book of Proverbs, pride goes before destruction and it is far better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud.

According to Dave Anderson, a well recognized speaker, pride is the leading cause of managerial breakdown.

“There are many reasons managers fail. For some, the organization outgrows them. Others don’t change with the times. Some spread themselves too thin and work long and hard but not smart. Many abandon the priorities and disciplines that once made them great and never get back to them. A few make poor character choices. But all these causes for management failure have their root in one common cause: pride. In the simplest terms, pride is devastating. I’m not talking about the pride one has in their work or their accomplishments. I’m indicating the pride that inflates your sense of self-worth and distorts your perspective of reality.”

From this quote, Dave implies that there are two types of pride. One is healthy while the other can be destructive. Healthy pride is the foundation for a positive attitude. It is the cornerstone of self esteem and a healthy, strong, ego. Effective leadership requires a healthy ego and a positive attitude in order to influence and direct team members adequately. Healthy pride focuses on an abundance based vision of the future rather than a vision rooted in scarcity.

Pride, in its unhealthy form, seems to focus mostly on self; always asking the question, “What is in it for me?” Pride replaces a positive attitude with a negative one, and is recognized outwardly as conceit or arrogance. Because this type of pride focuses so much on self, it creates conflict between team members preventing the creation of relationships. Pride allows denigration instead of edification. The ego in this form of pride is not healthy, often resulting in acts of stubbornness, irritability, belittlement, and rudeness. This selfish mindset justifies the need to take shortcuts or make compromises in judgment resulting in an “above the law” mindset. So what does all of this mean?

Pride can prevent you from developing true team spirit within your organization. An inflated importance of individuality will prevent your becoming servant focused. This condition, according to John Maxwell, is known as the “Superman Syndrome.” Thoughts like, “The team would never win without me; I am the reason our team is successful; They should all recognize how valuable I am”, dominate. Your arrogance trumps your humility and your self-centeredness will eventually lead to destruction.

Over time, pride’s self importance will transform you into a “know-it-all”, and since you already know everything, you are completely un-coachable and un-teachable. You think you already know everything you could possibly need to know. You believe you have arrived. You believe you are at the top of your game. The problem is you must constantly defend your self appointed position of power. Everyone becomes a threat. You develop a distorted view of reality and your ability to correctly lead becomes clouded by your obsession with your own self advancement and position preservation.

Your pride will not allow you to admit mistakes or recognize your areas of personal weakness. If problems develop within your team, you become the first to point the finger of blame toward others. Everything is the company’s fault, your boss’s fault, your downline’s fault, your spouse’s fault, your upline’s fault, the government’s fault, or your sponsor’s fault. You refuse to acknowledge and subsequently ignore your contribution to the problem. You become deaf to suggestions from your team or your superiors, and their warnings of impending breakdowns go unheard. Steven Covey says, “It takes humility to seek feedback. It takes wisdom to understand it, analyze it, and appropriately act on it.”

Arrogance blocks your ability to recognize the need for change. You are more apt to justify why things should remain the same, even if they are broken, rather than embrace the possibility that there could be a better way. Disaster looms near.

We all fall prey to pride. Pride, if unchecked, can eliminate effectiveness in leadership. It is a character flaw that can crumble individuals, destroy relationships, crush organizations, topple dynasties, and annihilate empires. Leaders who fail to “rein in” pride will meet with failure. That is not a prediction, it is a guarantee without exception.

The key is to recognize pride for what it can become and change course as rapidly as possible. According to C. S. Lewis, “If you think you are not conceited, you are very conceited indeed.” You will never be able to subdue pride, but you can corner it and hold it at bay. Find a mentor and open yourself up to counsel and feedback from them. Find a coach that exhibits character, integrity, and ethics and then ask for their direction. But make sure you remain humble enough to listen. Remember if you do all the talking, you are simply listening to what you already know.

Put yourself in service mode; community service, public service, church service, or a local service organization. These are all good choices. Just recognize that you are there to listen and to serve rather than to rule.

Learn to laugh at yourself. Instead of feeling humiliated when you trip and fall, see the humor and laugh at yourself. Laughter is a great healer. It mends relationships and rights wrongs.

Most importantly, pray with a heart of gratitude and count your blessings daily. Remember that all you have can disappear overnight, but all you are remains for a lifetime.

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