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THERE are certain ills that tend to dog people when they become leaders be it in business, politics or society in general. One of such ill is pride. Christians will explain this by saying there are demons after every position of authority, and pride is one such demon.

Pride is indeed an albatross that impedes effective leadership, and societies are awash with cases of organisations and whole nations that fell as a result of poor and arrogant leadership.

In defining pride, Jack Einstein says, “Pride is excessive belief in one’s own abilities. It is placing oneself above everyone else and looking down upon others”. Indeed, pride which also manifests through arrogance and a bloated ego is an unjustifiable and abhorrent high opinion of oneself which mindlessly stands in the way of progress.

Pride is abominable, and it stands in the way of progress. Pride shows itself when a leader believes heshe has monopoly over knowledge and begin to impose hisher wishes on others taking aantage of hisher position and authority, or worse still, when the leader begin to bestow upon himselfherself a demigod status.

As one writer puts it, “the growth of pride in a leader doesn’t happen overnight but over time through little atrocities”. Pride grows once the leader starts to believe that the success of the organisation is due solely to hisher own personal efforts, and increases with an undisciplined pursuit of more control of the organisation.

When pride goes unchecked for a long time, the perpetrator becomes deluded foolishly thinking that the whole world must submit to hisher self-proclaimed lordship. And leaders with pride share the misconception that no one can see what they are up to, thinking they are smarter than everyone else.

They have no regard for due process and they hardly take aice from others. They are obsessed with power and most of the time they see their point of view as superior and conclusive. They belittle other people’s views but when things go wrong, they are quick to blame it all on others and imagined outside forces.

Indeed, pride can have many far reaching effects if left unchecked. Pride stifles innovation, growth and fusion of ideas. It suppresses development and creates apathy among the people. Pride results in poor decision-making and stimulates mediocrity. Pride blinds leaders to new societal dynamics and the need for change.

In business, arrogant company leaders are known to allocate more resources such as pay perks and benefits to themselves and less to employees. They are obsessed with personal gain without any regard whatsoever for business sustainability.

They run down their firms, though interestingly when they finally leave their employ, they receive golden parachutes and handshakes as if to say, “Thank you for running down the firm”. When pride rules, individual and sectarian interests become supreme over the public good. Values such as integrity, honesty and trust lose their command, and relationships become based more on patronage and sycophancy.

And in such an environment, focus shifts from performance to apple-polishing and praise singing. Production is relegated to consumption, and corruption becomes fashionable and the means for wealth accumulation. People simply become engrossed in competing for the attention of those with power and influence, endlessly conspiring to outdo each other in that regard.

Words are twisted and their meaning changed to suit the selfish needs of those in power, and governance processes are corrupted sometimes beyond redemption. The opposite of pride is humility. Humble and self-respecting leaders value integrity and seek to reach out to the people and embrace their concerns.

Humble leaders recognise that the real issue is about building sound relationships with the people. They know that positive results are accomplished when they focus on the work at hand, and they are aware that humility and deep reverence for professionalism is what wins the people’s favour and admiration.

Humble leaders have a character that transcends personal ego to exhibit ethical leadership traits. They are servant leaders, and they recognise that the task is not to demean and harass those whom you lead but to engage and involve them. When leaders anchor their actions on integrity, they grow a measure of wisdom that spontaneously relegates pride and elevates humility. Leaders must regularly ask and answer a number of questions during their tenure.

Does pride and superiority define my relationship with others? Do I exhibit overbearing pride over others? Do the people consider me humble and approachable? Effective leaders are characterised by self-confidence that is born of the pride that is a legitimate sense of achievement, self-respect and personal dignity, not the loathed pride which caused Lucifer to rebel against God and subsequently fall from grace.

*Bradwell Mhonderwa is an ethics coach and trainer. E-mail bradwellm@businessethicscentre.org or call 0772 913 875 for an inspiring conversation on ethical leadership.

Source : Financial Gazette