Three Pitfalls of Pride


What are the qualities of a prideful leader and why, in most cases, are they difficult to follow?

I’d like to suggest three pitfalls:

  • A proud leader is self-focused. Writer and scholar Henri Nouwen once wrote, “It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people.” It is far easier (and seemingly satisfying) to be focused entirely on ourselves and not on the needs of others or the opportunities presented by others.
  • A proud leader is close minded. Don’t confuse this leader with the facts. Close-minded leaders are not open to discussion and see no need to examine multiple sides of an issue. They know the truth and are usually the source. Anyone, in their minds, who disagrees with them is basically stupid.
  • A proud leader is critical. Such leaders develop self-centered standards and then tend to criticize anyone who does not follow their rules or who shows creativity and independence.

Several years ago I was consulting with the executive team of a national retailer. During one of my visits in early December, the two majority stockholders walked me through one of their distribution centers. The farther we walked, the more inventory we observed. The place was overflowing with merchandise. One executive, with clenched jaw, and reddening face, said, “You walk on without me. I need to talk to our Warehouse Manager.”

He turned and ran to the warehouse manager’s office. As I continued my tour I could hear the executive yelling and screaming at the top of his lungs.

Here was the problem: He was so angry and intent on criticizing, and assigning blame that he refused to listen to the warehouse manager’s explanation. Big mistake. In reality the warehouse was bulging because the sales cycle hadn’t peaked. The warehouse manager was on his game, but the prideful owner was critical, close-minded and self-focused. In fact, the warehouse manager had developed and successfully implemented a new system that was working. After Christmas, the numbers were glowing.

The warehouse manger? He quit. The company lost a valuable employee because the executive was too proud. The owner? Two years later this nationally recognized chain went out of business. There were many factors, but the inability of the executives to overcome their pride certainly contributed to the downfall (by the way, the chose not to take my advice either).

Are you too quick to criticize? Are you open to new ideas and discussion that bends what you “know” to be true? Are your people free to do their jobs?



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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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