Four Ways Pride Hurts Your Leadership

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.

– St. Augustine

Ronald Reagan once told the story about a speech he delivered to a very large crowd in Mexico City. After he was finished he sat down to scattered and unenthusiastic applause. Reagan said he felt embarrassed, and even more so when the next man who spoke, a representative of the Mexican government who was speaking in Spanish, was being interrupted virtually every other line with enthusiastic applause.

Reagan said to hide his embarrassment, he started clapping before anyone else and longer than anyone else until the US Ambassador leaned over and said to him, “ I wouldn’t do that if I were you; he’s interpreting your speech.”

That embarrassing moment for Reagan is a lesson that we can all learn from as leaders.

John Maxwell said, “There are two kinds of pride both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.” And this is the trap as leaders we must avoid.

If not careful, we can fall into the trap of writing our own headlines, believing our own headlines, and finding ourselves detached from reality in our leadership. So how do we keep that from happening? What are the traps that we need to avoid? Let’s begin with these four.

The trap of an unbridled ego

Pride hurts your leadership when you have an unbridled ego. An unbridled ego will cause a host of issues for you personally and for those around you. It will make working with you or for you unbearable. So long as you think everything revolves around you, because of you, and for you, then the capacity of everyone around is held hostage to your ego.

A leadership 101 principle states, very simply, “it’s not about you”. For the sake of your own personal growth and development, and for the benefit of those around you, check your ego at the door.

The trap of false humility

As the pendulum swings back in the opposite direction away from pride, it often lands with false humility. There are times, as Maxwell’s quote points out when ‘good pride’ is in order. But when you are purposefully fishing for a compliment to draw attention to yourself, or by downplaying things, it can have the opposite effect.

As a leader, you can be proud of your accomplishment without being full of pride or conceit. You can graciously accept the praise from another person without clothing yourself with false humility. Simply be gracious and give credit where it’s due.

The trap of complacency

Complacency is one of the most dangerous traps to be on guard against as a leader. String along a series of wins and accomplishments, and before long you can begin to take for granted that success and winds will always come this easy.

Each season of leadership that you find yourself in will require more from you than the previous one. Click To Tweet If you want to grow as a leader and reach your fullest potential you will have to fight the urge to settle, the lure of contentment, and the temptation to believe that the sacrifices of today are enough for the accomplishments of tomorrow.

The trap of going-it-alone

One of the dangers of pride in leadership is the belief that you can go it alone. We’ve been created and designed for community and relationships and when surrounded with like-minded people we can accomplish more than we ever could by ourselves. Pride says, “I don’t need anyone”, and is one of the most debilitating qualities in leadership.

Final Thoughts

Working on our pride as leaders begins by acknowledging it and allowing ourselves to be held accountable for it. Don’t allow pride to put a lid on your leadership.


Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences. Doug is a John Maxwell Team member.

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