Archive for March, 2016

Building A High-Performance Culture Part XXV

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Words that Hurt: Pride

In this post on building a high-performance culture, I’m identifying the word “pride” as one belonging on the “Words that hurt” column. The pride that comes from satisfaction in doing good work is not the pride I’m referring to. Rather, the ego-driven pride that incites a multitude of leadership failures is the kind of pride I will highlight.

Since it has been awhile since my last post, take a moment to review the strong and weak cultural words listed so you can conceptualize the ideal culture to move your organization towards—as well as what you must weed out of your culture in order to maximize your organization’s potential.

Words that work and must be woven into culture

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something.

Discipline: an activity, regimen, or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

Commit: to pledge oneself to something.

Prune: to remove what is undesirable.

Wise: having or showing good judgement.

Diligent: giving constant effort to accomplish something.

Hunger: an intense desire, a compelling craving.

Fitness: being in good health, especially because of regular exercise.


Words that hurt and must be weeded out of culture

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest, or concern.

Interest: to be curious about (as opposed to being committed).

Foolish: lacking good sense or judgment.

Micromanage: to control with excessive attention to minor details.

Pride:  having or showing an excessively high opinion of oneself or of one’s importance.


Cultures with a prideful leader can expect to see the following:

  1. A leader who doesn’t admit mistakes.
  1. A leader prone to blame conditions or other people for his or her lack of success.
  1. A leader who withholds, or even hogs, the credit for team success.
  1. A leader who doesn’t delegate to others.
  1. A leader who fails to empower others, and personally makes all decisions.
  1. A leader who believes certain standards or values that others must live do not apply to him or her.
  1. A selfish leader who isn’t a team player, and who is primarily in it for himself or herself.
  1. A leader who fails to develop others, because he sees little value in others.
  1. A leader prone to becoming overwhelmed because she will not ask for help, or admit when she is in over her head.
  1. A leader uncommitted to personal development because he feels he is good enough as he is.
  2. A leader who believes certain tasks are beneath him, and thus leads   by the wrong personal example.
  3. A leader who treats front line team members poorly or with indifference.
  4. A leader who talks far more than he listens, and normally it is about himself.
  5. A leader unreceptive to ideas other than his or her own; who rarely seeks them out and quickly dismisses them when offered to him or her.
  6. A leader resentful of feedback, and who is more likely to argue with it than entertain its value.
  7. A leader who develops blind spots because people are afraid to speak up and share the reality about what is going on in the organization.
  8. A leader who focuses more on being served, rather than on adding value to others and serving them.

This list could continue for a while, but the seventeen points offered paint a fairly clear portrait of what a prideful leader looks like. The harm to culture, momentum, morale, trust and personal credibility for demonstrating some—or all—of these traits is staggering.

While any leader may demonstrate an unhealthy pride from time to time—after all, we are all human—the leaders who destroy cultures and people are those in whom these behaviors are dominant, rather than the exception.

The bottom line is this: do not expect to build a fit culture with an unfit leader. And prideful leaders are the poster-children for leadership unfitness—a culture’s most devastating and insurmountable infection.