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Pride Damages Our Ability to Lead Well

Humility - Believing and acting like “It’s not about me.”

I cringe every time I think about how I treated Ashley, a woman on my team in Dallas. She was a good sales person. She had natural talent and a great work ethic. But, a few months into my management position with my new team, when she came to me wanting support for a promotion—I put her off. I told her she needed more experience. Why? Because I wanted to believe I knew best. I tried to convince her I was right by listing specific examples. Instead of inspiring her, I crushed her. In turn, she became deflated. I lost her trust along with a real opportunity to build morale within my new team.

In spite of my comments, Ashley ended up applying for a different promotion three months later. I still did not believe she was ready and she knew she did not have my full blown support. But, when the hiring manager called me, I listed all of Ashley’s positive qualities along with areas she needed to grow in. He hired her and Ashley left our team. In retrospect, I am grateful her new manager perceived what I didn’t at the time. But back then, I couldn’t and wouldn’t see it. As a result, I hurt Ashley with my judgment call. To top it off, I hurt my team. Why? Because I was focused on myself.

I was sure I was right about Ashley. But unfortunately, my need to be right about her skill level ruined my opportunity to help her reach her goals. Instead of helping her to prepare for her next big step, I fixated on making my point, claiming she was not ready. Instead, I could have prepared her for interview questions which focused on her inexperience. Even though we didn’t have much time, I could have found ways to help her gain the experience she needed.

When I look back on my motivations, I realize now how I made her promotion all about me. I needed to prove I was right. I didn’t want to be the guy who promoted someone who was not ready. I wanted to look good in the eyes of my peers. But, if I had exercised Humility at the time, I would have focused on Ashley and acted as if “It’s not about me.”

A few years later, I ran into Ashley at a meeting. She was thriving. She loved her role and had become a top performer. That day, I told her how wrong I had been in misjudging her. I asked her to forgive me for holding her back from her dream. She graciously accepted my apology. But, the reconciliation did not end there.

Ashley called former teammates to let them know I had apologized. She shared how much it meant to her to hear those words. Many of the people Ashley called were still on my team. Until that moment, I hadn’t truly begun to discover the negative impact I had created because of my lack of support for Ashley. The team appreciated my willingness to admit I had made a series of poor decisions when it came to Ashley. With my admission, trust grew.

When a leader puts his need to be right ahead of doing the right thing, that leader misses an opportunity to exercise character. We all miss those opportunities from time-to-time. The key to growing is our willingness to look in the mirror and see our own flaws. Seeing the flaws is the first step. Admitting we were wrong to the people who were impacted by our poor choices is the next step towards exercising Humility. The final step is to actually have the Courage and Humility to make new choices in the future.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • When was the last time pride damaged your ability to lead?

  • Who do you need to ask forgiveness from due to a prideful moment?


Exercising Humility takes work and is a lifelong journey. We want to partner with you as you practice the habit of Humility daily, which is why we have created FREE tools and resources to guide your journey.

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