As part of our commitment at OFC to be principle driven leaders, I have made a list of more than 75 principles that guide our actions and decisions. Numbers 59 and 60 have to do with pride and humility. John Dickson, in his book “Humilitas,” studies the power of humility through history, both recent and ancient. His discoveries are amazing. One point he makes is about how a lack of humility impacts leadership and is entitled “The Slow Pace of Pride.” The phrase alone is worth the price of the book. I’ve spent several days thinking about this sentence.
If the idea has to be mine, then what of the ideas I never come up with? Pride slows creativity because it fears failure. Pride inhibits teamwork because it continually compares and competes. Pride slows progress because it rehearses past victories and defends past defeats. Pride stagnates thinking because it refuses fresh water from an outside source. Pride poisons relationships because it pursues being first. Pride’s pouting pollutes passion. Pride misses new discoveries because it didn’t think there were any. After all, what’s to learn if you have it all figured out?
Pride kills a leader because it destroys trust. Pride focuses on blame instead of breakthroughs. Pride stumbles and falls because it is blind. Pride stays down when it falls because it refuses to admit it has fallen. Remember the old commercial that used the phrase “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up?” Pride would never say that because pride stays on the floor and claims it hasn’t fallen, the world is just on its back.
Pride believes it can hear without listening. Pride believes it sees without actually looking. Pride is convinced it understands without considering. Pride refuses coaching. Pride is pitiful poor, blind, and naked…but doesn’t know it. The gears of progress grind to a halt under the pressure of pride.
I have a friend who teaches struggling elementary students in a computer class. Living with a learning disability makes every day in the classroom a challenge. They are a brave lot and she is a courageous teacher. One day she announced they would not be able to work on the computers because the system was down. She gave them handouts and proceeded to make the best of a bad situation. About 30 minutes into a 45 minute class one of the students raised his hand. When recognized, he said he wasn’t sure what was wrong with everyone else’s computers, but his wasn’t working because it wasn’t plugged in. My friend looked down and discovered hers wasn’t either. She canceled the call to I.T. and spent the rest of the hour with her class plugging in computers and laughing.
Dare I say, there are teachers, pastors, factory workers, cab drivers, as well as doctors, lawyers, and architects who would have explained to the student it was “more complicated than that” and he needed to get back to work on his handout. Oh, the slow pace of pride.
The thing about pride is it's a human condition. Egos come with humanity; hence have a tendency to be fragile. Yes, I said “ego.” You have one. Please don’t assume the arrogant position you don’t. I bet I could call witnesses from your home and workplace that would testify otherwise.
While pride is a human condition, it is also a deadly sin which must be dealt with. Don’t ignore this cold or it will turn into leadership pneumonia. Recognize it when it hits you and get help. Here are a few commitments I’ve made when I feel the “priffles” (pride + sniffles of self-pity) coming on:
Pounce on it. Whether it’s a bruised ego or a boastful spirit; keep yourself on a short leash.
Repent of it. Ask the one whose scars represent the price paid for your pride to forgive you.
Intentionally choose humility. If there is conflict, own some of it. (Oh yes you do!) Apologize without an asterisk. Give away credit without a comma.
Distinguish between confidence and pride. Note that I did not say “self-confidence” and “pride.” The confidence that comes with humility does not reside in self...that’s another blog altogether.
Embrace the beatitudes. (Matthew 5:1-12)
Good luck and keep your eyes open for raised hands. The pace of your progress will be directly related to your ability to recognize them.