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Leadership: Pride Is a Cruel Master

Dealing with highly successful professionals has shown me a wide variety of interesting things about human nature.

Perhaps the most significant negative attribute I’ve witnessed is PRIDE. I see pride as a two-edged sword; it cuts both ways.


Pride can be a good thing when applied in the context of positive leadership as in “I am proud of my team for what they have done.” Or “I am proud (satisfied) about the things I have been able to do for this cause.”

But there is a fine line over which one steps into arrogance. Once there, pride becomes a cruel and ugly aspect of someone’s persona.


Here’s the thing about pride. No one likes to be around the bad kind for long. The smug and self-righteous kind of pride wears out the people around it very quickly. The audience doesn’t stick around for another showing.

The right kind of pride helps leaders maintain their confidence (see my prior post on this topic). Confidence is necessary to be an effective leader. If you lose confidence in yourself, those around you won’t respect you. The good kind of pride helps maintain the self-assurance that builds one’s confidence.

Well proportioned pride can be accepted by others. If they respect you as a leader, they won’t mind the demonstration of pride in things well done. But when pride turns inward and self-serving, then the tide shifts.

Attitudes wane about prideful people. The Bible goes so far as to say “pride comes before a fall.” Now that’s foreboding!

Also, pride is sometimes hubris. Look at the other words associated with HUBRIS.


The Mirror Has Two Sides

When I talk a about a topic like this, most of us immediately think about another person who is guilty of this bad practice; boastful pride. But seldom do we think about ourselves first as being the guilty party.

Funny how that works. It’s easy to think about a boss or a colleague who is rubbing you the wrong way because of pride. The signs are so easy to see.

However, when you look in the mirror, can you see any evidence of a prideful attitude (the bad kind)? Here’s a hint. If you stare in that mirror too long, you are on the edge of being prideful.

There’s a Difference

Being confident about who and what you are is radically different from being full of pride. I’m a big advocate for finding those key values and experiences from which you can draw confidence as a manager and leader. But bragging about it stinks.

Take a moment to do a self-assessment about pride. Here are a few questions to ask:

  1. Have I alienated anyone lately?
  2. How do I feel about certain key topics?
  3. Have I re-checked my values lately?
  4. Have I compromised any core principles?

Once you’ve done this step, then go further. Ask a few close friends and colleagues about your pride meter. Let them tell you whether you have gone too far lately.

If any of that is true, it is time to adjust. Make amends to those who may have been hurt by your prideful attitude. How do you do that? Admit it. You can make it a private discussion or if it involves the whole team, then have a short meeting to let them know you have reviewed your own action.

Be real about the issue. You’ll see a big bounce in loyalty from those around you.