Craig looked intently at his staff. Every Monday morning staff meeting was intense.  Craig expected results and he held everyone accountable.  Not necessarily himself.

No one talked, they just listened. Craig was on a rant.  This was typical, he had a pretty big ego and drew a line in the sand quite often. This line, however, could be detrimental.

One of their largest customers had a problem.  Kim had addressed the issue with Craig for two weeks. He wouldn’t budge. They were wrong, he was right. They would not compromise.

Kim knew the answer, she couldn’t argue (discuss) any longer. She would communicate the decision to the customer.   The staff left the meeting not uplifted and excited for the week ahead, but discouraged and stressed.

8 Reasons Why Pride is the Core of Leadership Failure | Lead Change Group

How many times has this scenario played out where you work?  How many times has your leaders’ pride trumped a customer  or damaged a vendor relationship that took years to build?

All because of pride.

Pride vs Humility (The Leaders Choice)

We are all prideful. Let’s be honest. You take great pride in your family, your skills and abilities and your accomplishments.  Deep down we are all self-centered somewhat.

However, if there is one thing that causes leaders to lose their ability to lead effectively, it’s pride.  It’s at the core of a lot of leadership failures. These failures reinforce the importance of humility in leaders.

Those who worked with or wrote about the good-to-great leaders continually used words like quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated, did not believe his own clippings - Jim Collins, author of Good To Great.

The Dangers of Pride

  1. Lost customers.
  2. Micromanagement – not delegating effectively.
  3. High turnover/lost employees – people quit the bad leader not the organization.
  4. Distrust – the leader’s pride gets in the way of building trust and loyalty.
  5. Failure to seek out feedback – pride keeps the leader from asking.  They know it all.
  6. Selfish and territorial attitude – the ME disease.
  7. Having your own agenda – commitment to yourself not the team.
  8. Lack of accountability – failure to take responsibility for results and actions – finger pointing and blame.

Replace Pride With Humility

Great leaders know humility creates the trust and loyalty needed to succeed.  It’s not about them, it’s about the vision, the goal, the organization and the “why.”  It’s not about their reputation and self-interests but the results.

Humility is typically associated with being timid, weak, or a pushover.  But the truth is, it’s a great strength.  Take a look at the great leaders, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Jesus, and the Level 5 Leaders researched in Good to Great.

Far from pushovers, timid and weak.  Their focus was on others (servant leadership) and not their self-interests.

How to instill humility in the culture of your organization

  1. Hire it.  This can be difficult, but look for humility in the people you hire.  Gear your interviewing questions to look for this trait.  Speak with references about character rather than skills.  Test for it with a DISC analysis.  Do as much work in hiring process to determine if the candidate has a humble character.
  2. Reward it.  Look for actions that represent humility and reward individuals that display it. Recognize them in front of their peers.  Make it a priority.
  3. Make it a core value.  Let everyone know this is a core value of the organization.  Talk about it constantly.  It needs to become the way you work.
  4. Don’t judge others or feel like you are superior to them.   Value the differences of everyone in the organization. Don’t judge opinions and input, value them.
  5. You don’t have to have it your way all the time. Be flexible. Give others a chance to make decisions and mistakes.  Let them fail and try.
  6. Submit to your boss as you expect those that report to you to submit.  Tough to say hard to do.  Followers need to be humble, just like leaders.  It’s a reciprocal environment.  You can’t cultivate a culture of humility if you can’t be an example.
  7. Seek out feedback and constructive criticism.  This is the only way you and the organization will grow and get better.  Ask others for their opinions, value their input. You don’t know everything, don’t act like it.
What are you doing to cultivate a culture of humility in your organization?  What are some effective ways you have made humility a core value? 
John Bossong
John is the General Manager of Cumberland International Trucks in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He believes that a lack of passion and influence are two things that keep organizations and individuals from continually improving and living life rather than wandering through it. Connect with John on his member profile, his blog www.johnbossong.com, LinkedIn or Twitter @JohnBossong.
John Bossong

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