On Leadership: Beware of Pride



Intelligence is only limited by ego.

~ Mary Julich

The first test of a truly great man is his humility. By humility I don’t mean doubt of his powers or hesitation in speaking his opinion, but merely an understanding of the relationship of what he can say and what he can do.

~ John Ruskin

If you have read Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, you learned that the first step to creating a great company is to have a Level 5 leader.  The attributes of a Level 5 leader are a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.  Focusing on the humility side of the equation, Mr. Collins identified the following indicators to identify whether a leader is Level 5:

  1. Demonstrates a compelling modesty, shunning public adulation; never boastful.
  2. Acts with quiet, calm determination; relies principally on inspired standards, not inspiring charisma, to motivate.
  3. Channels ambition into the company, not the self; sets up successors for even greater success in the next generation.
  4. Looks out the window, not in the mirror, to apportion credit for the success of the company – to other people, external factors, and good luck.

Mr. Collins explains that the opposite of a Level 5 leader is someone that looks at work as first and foremost about what they get – such as fame, fortune, adulation, power, whatever – not what they build, create, and contribute.  Simply put, the key attribute that blocks Level 5 leadership is pride.

So, how do you become less prideful and more humble?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Esteem others as yourself.  Look beyond title, wealth or position at the person.  All of us share this common journey of life.
  2. Lift others high or higher than yourself.  Look for ways to lift and encourage everyone you meet.
  3. Seek feedback and be open to counsel and suggestions for improvement.  Pursue growth and learning.
  4. Forgive others, even those who may not deserve it.
  5. Gives selfless service “just because.”

At first this may seem a bit odd for a leadership post, but it’s not if you stop to think about the principle and its application for executive leadership. In my experience, the number one challenge that restricts greatness is pride.  Pride and humility are universal regardless of setting and context.

Shun pride.  Choose humility. Choose greatness.







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