Swallow Your Pride

Business Principle

the famous poet Will Smith once said (that was a joke) in his infamous song entitled Wild Wild West, “Swallow your pride, don’t let your lip react, you don’t wanna see my hand where my hip be at.” William captures an important leadership principle in this poorly worded and inappropriate (yet catchy) lyric. Great leaders know that pride and selfishness need to be avoided like a plague. Pride is like an infection or a cancer (whichever medical analogy you prefer to use) because it is incredibly contagious and difficult to get rid of. Fueled by gossip and criticism it DESTROYS productivity and effectiveness. This is a tremendous area of opportunity for an enlightened leader. People take their behavioral cues from leadership when it comes to pride vs. humility. If a leader is arrogant and full of himself, so too will the employees be.

John G. Miller addresses this pride vs. humility debate in his new book entitled Outstanding!: 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional. He says that one way for leaders to avoid the cantankerous effects of pride is to regularly ask people for their sincere input. This is relatively easy to do and often done by companies. But the hard part (and the most important part) is following through. If an employee gives you a suggestion – LISTEN! Sometimes we forget that our employees have brains too.

Scriptural Support

One of my favorite stories of the Old Testament is the story about Naaman, a prestigious captain of the Syrian army. 2 Kings chapter 5 talks about how he contracted leprosy and went to the prophet Elisha to be healed. Instead of meeting him face to face Elisha sent out a servant to meet him and deliver the message for him to wash seven times in the River Jordan. Naaman didn’t like that. He threw a fit because the prophet treated him so simply and didn’t perform an ostentatious miracle. It was at this point where Naaman’s servants approached him and said in verse 13:

13 …. if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?

Luckily Naaman was humble enough to listen to his trusted servants and wash in the River Jordan and be healed. When we listen to our employees and follow through with their suggestions we show them that we trust them. Trust is essential for an organization’s success. Plus, more than likely they will give some great suggestions. So let’s follow the wise words of Mr. William Smith and “swallow your pride,” and our organizations will be much better off.

Comments: Have you ever seen an organization full of pride and arrogance? How about an organization that showed humility and really listened to people? Is there a difference?

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One thought on “Swallow Your Pride

  1. The classic organization that always stands out to me as an example of pride and arrogance will always be Arthur Anderson, the accounting firm which aided in lying to employees and investors to such an extent that it completely disppeared shortly after the collapse it helped to cause. If you ever met employees or recruits to that firm, they seemed to have a lot of swagger. They just looked and acted different than members of the other (then) Big Five firms, in my experience. They were considered the elite and the untouchable by many.

    Another example might be Kmart. Most people forget they once ruled the retail world much like Wal-Mart does now. They used to be very strong, and they decided to just sell off their trucks and make shippers deliver to them. The result, since they had no distribution centers (like Wal-Mart later did), was they turned retail stores into very expensive warehouses. It changed their image dramatically and suddenly they were ripe to be overtaken by Wal-Mart. Stories like these abound, but so often we forget about them. The last, which I won’t write about in detail, is one from Good to Great: Circuit City. They changed their practices and made themselves too similar to everyone else. Now they’re gone.

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