8 Reasons Why Pride Is The Core Of Leadership Failure

by  John Bossong  |  Leadership Development

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? 

About The Author

Articles By john-bossong
Full Bio Coming Soon

What People Are Saying

David M. Dye  |  14 Nov 2012  |  Reply


Thanks for this message – it’s one every leader can use. We always walk that line between confidence in our vision and humility to take responsibility and learning when we need to.

Well said!


John Bossong  |  14 Nov 2012  |  Reply


Thanks for your comments. I know I can use this message at times. Practicing humility can be difficult when pride gets in the way.

Keep up your great work,


Jon Mertz  |  14 Nov 2012  |  Reply

Great post, John. Another great way to build a culture of humility is to lead by example. We need to exhibit the traits we want others to embrace. Additionally, we need to have peers hold us accountable when we stray.

All in all, customers have a way of letting us know, too. They will be vocal, either in conversations, surveys, or actions. We just need to listen and adjust.



John Bossong  |  14 Nov 2012  |  Reply


Thanks for the comments. Great thought on leading by example. That’s should probably be number one. I agree with you, if others see it in us, they’ll believe it and embrace it.

Customers certainly let us now. You are right. I constantly have to work on listening because I tend to think I’m always right (my wife corrects me quite frequently).

Take care and keep up your great work,

Karin Hurt  |  14 Nov 2012  |  Reply

John, This is an important one. You have an excellent list here, worth sharing.

John Bossong  |  15 Nov 2012  |  Reply

Thanks Karin, thanks for sharing.

Take care,

Cody Craig  |  15 Nov 2012  |  Reply


When you wrote “Talk about humility all the time.”, how would I go about talking about humility without it coming off as arrogant or without pushing it on people and it having a negative effect rather than the desired positive effect?

Thank You,
Cody Craig

John Bossong  |  15 Nov 2012  |  Reply


Thanks for the question. That’s a great one and I can certainly see what you are saying and how it could come off as arrogant and having a negative effect. I think there will certainly need to be a balance between your actions, talking about it and not judging others but valuing their input and differences. I think you can talk about it all the time letting them know that it’s extremely important but that you are not judging them or making them feel inferior. I do see your point though. That’s a great thought and I can see how it could happen.

Having the humility not to judge others and let them know that you are not better than they are is probably the best place to start. It will provide the example of humility you are trying to model to them, hopefully without seeming arrogant. Although, some could take that position.

I hope this helps. Thanks for a great question. I’ll have to make sure I’m conscious of that because it is a valid point.

Take care,

Cody Craig  |  16 Nov 2012  | 


Thank you very much for replying to my question as quick as you did. I appreciate your advice and will defineitly work on instilling humility to my team and into my companies culture. Once I find a way that works for me and I believe that is the most important part, finding a way that works for you. Everyone leads in a different way and that is one of the many beauties of leadership.

Thanks for the advice,
Cody Craig

John Bossong  |  16 Nov 2012  | 


Sounds like you are dialed in pretty good. I agree with you, find a way that works for you. Everyone does lead differently and you are right, that’s the beauty of leadership.

Take care and keep leading!

Eric Dingler  |  16 Nov 2012  |  Reply

This was a “must tweet” post.

I agree with repeating your core values often. Also, more is caught than is taught…it’s why modeling what we want is way more effective than just telling people.

John Bossong  |  16 Nov 2012  |  Reply

Thanks Eric, I appreciate your comments and I agree with you 100% on the core values and catching vs. teaching. Great points!

Join The Conversation