05 Jan 2021 17:51 IST

The two sides of pride

Good pride is about self-respect while bad pride breeds conceit and arrogance

Pride as a leadership attribute is more misunderstood than understood. More recent studies, however, have clearly distinguished between “good pride” and “bad pride.” The problem with many aspiring leaders is their inability to be aware of this difference and, more importantly, recognise which one they are embracing or perhaps are already engulfed in. Good pride is about self-respect and dignity, whereas bad pride breeds conceit and arrogance. With their inability to recognise bad pride and by mistaking it for the good variety, many upcoming leaders start to derail.

How can young leaders identify pride of the bad variety? After all many may not have the benefit of a robust 360-degree feedback to help them. In fact, when bad pride develops, many of them may be individual contributors and very successful in their roles. A healthy sense of paranoia can perhaps help one reflect.


Perils of pride

Here are some of the indicators of leaders headed towards bad pride:

They suffer from the “Superman syndrome.” Blinded by their success, this syndrome builds up almost unconsciously. They become self-centred and are on their way to becoming narcissistic. Even when they work as a part of a team, they tend to take more than their fair share of credit and are often unable to appreciate the contribution from fellow team-members.

They become unteachable or find it difficult to learn. The “Arrival syndrome” may also be beginning to set in. Anyone sharing a different point of view or doing a training session with them is viewed with contempt and criticism.

They become less receptive to developmental feedback. They attribute “colleague envy” to any inputs for improvement. They unconsciously develop cynicism towards even well-meaning friends who offer their productive feedback.

They do not admit their mistakes, not realising that everyone has their share of it. They are quick to externalise the problem or rationalise them away.

They also exhibit a tendency to misconstrue their smartness as licence to practise micro-biases or micro-inequities. This could also operate as unconscious bias towards their colleagues.

They often have a distorted view of reality, and they allow this to interfere with their judgement.

A good example is professional cyclist Lance Armstrong, whose negative pride led him to do things someone of his stature could have avoided. Another example is the Dutch social psychologist, Diederik Stapel who, despite his reputation, was found to have fabricated data while guiding doctoral students, only to be caught soon.

This is often also referred to as hubristic pride.


Building authentic pride

On the other hand, it is good to build authentic pride. The healthy side of this pride reflects in the following behaviours:

Feeling good about one’s accomplishments and expressing gratitude for the role of others who made it possible.

Using strengths to strengthen others. This is a key quality observed in people with positive pride. They do not brag about their strengths but keep leveraging it to help others succeed.

Take pleasure in showing persistence in completing challenging assignments and do not give into a sense of despair. This translates into greater diligence at work.

Ability to delay immediate gratification and be invested in long-term rewards for accomplishments.

Demonstrate compassion towards others who may not be as talented or gifted as oneself.

Be a disciplined team player whenever an opportunity is available to be part of a project team.

Invest in listening to feedback and reflect on how to benefit from it.

Many young and promising leaders could have gone on to achieve greater successes, if they had learnt the differentiation between the two and favoured good pride and guarded themselves from bad one.