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5 Habits that Reveal You’re a Prideful Leader (And 5 Keys to Humility)

Nobody likes a proud or arrogant leader.

But leaders end up there sometimes without even realizing it.

You set out for humility, but end up in a very different place.

How would you know if it’s happening to you?

Pride Kills

Leadership is a high stakes game. A lot is riding on it, and few things kill a leader’s effectiveness more easily than pride. A proud leader:

Turns people off

Destroys the dynamic of a team

Caps the potential of the organization

Is often blind to his (or her) weaknesses

Loses the potential to grow

And just as important: actually isn’t all that fun to be around. Think of your spouse, kids or friends.

Creature of Habit

For years I thought pride and humility were attitudes. Want to be less prideful? Just adopt a humble attitude. But I’m no longer sure that’s entirely true.

In fact, I now believe pride and humility are habits.

In the same way that physical health isn’t an attitude as much as it is a product of activity and sensible eating, humble people and arrogant people adopt habits that make them proud or humble.

Here’s how I think pride and humility in reality work:

If you want to be more humble, do what humble people do.

If you want to be more prideful, do what prideful people do.

Pride and humility are habits, not attitudes. Click To Tweet

5 Habits that Reveal You’ve Become a Prideful Leader

So what do proud leaders do? The opposite of a humble leader. Their habits are opposite.

This is a daily struggle for most leaders as it is for me. I want to adopt the stance of the humble but the gravitational pull is toward pride.

So in the interests of helping us lead from a place of humility, here are 5 habits that reveal that you’ve become a prideful leader:

1. You Feel Entitled

A proud leader feels they’ve earned their leadership. You’ve secretly come to believe that you’re the smartest people in the room. You’ve worked harder than everyone else. You wouldn’t say it out loud, but you sometimes think you deserve the corner office and the public accolades.

A humble leader doesn’t feel that way at all. They know others are smarter, and want them on their team. They realize that despite all the hard work they’ve put in, there are others who have worked just as hard or harder and haven’t seen the same results. They don’t feel entitled, they feel grateful.

If you want to lead with humility, never lose your gratitude.

Your gratitude as a leader will rub off on your team and everyone around you. Christian leaders especially should be the most amazed, most grateful and most thankful people around. All of this (salvation as well as leadership) comes to us far beyond our deserving.

If you want to lead with humility, never lose your gratitude. Click To Tweet

2. You Take the High Place

Proud leaders enjoy titles, corner offices, and the praise and perks that come with a position. In fact at this point you enjoy the reserved parking spaces as well as the recognition and any VIP status that comes your way.

The humble take the low place. 

They adopt a posture of being served rather than serving. They are happy to help out and anxious to share what they have as a result of their leadership with others. They shake off titles and don’t mind washing the dishes or sweeping the floor.  To wash the dishes or sweep the floor 4o hours a week is likely not the best use of a high capacity leader’s time, but an unwillingness to do it is a sign of pride. Nothing is ‘below you’ when you adopt a humble stance.

Similarly with perks. Having them makes life better and makes you more productive (like skipping lines at airports etc). But they are not a badge of honour and should be used as generously as possible in the wider goal of serving others.

The humble take the low place. Click To Tweet

3. You Close Your Notebook

The smell of death is in the air as soon as a leader thinks he or she has arrived. A sure sign of that is when you begin to believe you have ‘nothing’ to learn from certain people.

This happens in two primary ways.

You stop learning from people you think are ‘below you’—people who haven’t achieved as much or don’t have as much status as you. Basically, you’ve come to believe you’re better than they are and have concluded they have nothing to teach you.

Because you’re basically insecure (most proud people are), you’ve also stopped learning from people you’re envious of. These are people ‘above you’ who you think you should be more like, but your insecurity has stopped you from learning from them. You can’t learn from people you’re jealous of.

The humble keep their notebooks open, because they believe they can learn something from everyone. They are not too proud to learn from people starting out, and because they are secure in what God has given them, they’re never too envious to not learn from people ‘above’ them.

A great practice here is to actually carry a notebook: either a physical notebook or something like Evernote (which I use).  Take notes. From everyone. It will chip away at your pride.

The humble keep their notebooks open, because they believe they can learn something from everyone. Click To Tweet

4. You Like the Spotlight

Prideful leaders are incredibly reluctant to share the spotlight. After all, you’ve worked so hard and so long, why share this moment with anyone? So if you’re a proud leader, you want the stage as often as it’s available. You want to chair everything and are reluctant to let anyone truly lead or get credit.

But humble leaders willingly push others into the spotlight.

They share credit. They share the stage. They don’t have to lead everything. In fact, they intentionally develop others leaders and even replace themselves in many key roles because the mission is more important than they are.

A humble leader actually rejoices in the success of others. A proud leader resents the success of others.

If you want to overcome envy and insecurity, do what proud people fear doing: push others into the spotlight. It will break the stranglehold of envy in your life.

Humble leaders willingly push others into the spotlight. Click To Tweet

5. You Address Before You Confess

Proud leaders love to point out the flaws in others but rarely admit to their own flaws. Clearly it’s easy to address shortcomings wherever you see them, but address your own? Hey, that’s between me and God.

The humble are different. The humble confess their own sins before they address the sins of others. They remember that they became Christians because God is good, not because they are good. So they readily admit their shortcomings before they point out areas that need to be addressed in others.

Proud leaders in many cases have even stopped privately confessing their personal sin to God. After all, they’re pretty awesome.

Get in the habit of privately and publicly admitting your sins, and when you address the shortcomings of others, you will do it with remarkable humility and grace.

The humble confess their own sins before they address the sins of others. Click To Tweet

Habits Take Time

It is a crazy world, and if you’re not careful, it can take you under. That’s what happened to me when, after my first decade in leadership, I burned out.

If you’re trying to find the time for what matters most in life, my High Impact Leader course, is my online, on-demand course designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favour.

Many leaders who have taken it are recovering 3 productive hours a day.  That’s about 1000 hours of found time each year. That’s a lot of time for what matters most.

Here are what some alumni are saying about The High Impact Leader Course”

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What Have You Seen?

I’m sure you’ve seen other examples of the habits of proud and humble leaders.

I’d love to hear your insights. Leave a comment.

54 Comments

  1. Scott McIlroy on September 7, 2019 at 8:03 am

    The humble take the low place.

    They adopt a posture of being served rather than serving.
    Hey Carey, maybe I read this wrong-“The humble take the low place……they adopt a posture of being served rather than serving.”? Are you referring to the Proud in this one sentence?-or is it a typo.

    Humility for me or you will be the result of your answer. 🙂

  2. mega. nz/#f!cjbgmarb!wxmi6bmxc-irq6crfernsa on March 28, 2019 at 5:08 am

    This website can be a stroll-by way of for all of the information you wanted about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse right here, and also you’ll positively discover it.

    • Ross Bowerman on July 21, 2019 at 7:35 am

      Prideful? I think the word you are after is proud. And now I sound it!

  3. Tumi Mabena on January 21, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    Hi Carey, I found this so informative; thank you. I would love to quote you on these in my book 😁 is it ok with you?

  4. clyde jenkins on January 8, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    hi i have been pastoring for 20years at lest ithough i have iam at the

  5. christine hurwin on April 8, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    The pastor of a church I was attending decided to turn the Music volume up. Naturally he did not ask any of the members if we minded. Well when I walked into the service it was SOOOOO Loud that I had to leave to the lobby. I asked, Why is it so Loud? …Who s idea was it to turn the volume up so loud” I continued to say that if this is the way it is going to be I can’t attend. Well the Pastor later that afternoon called me on my cell and told me that if i had any complaints that I should talk to him first. I said…How can I tell you when you are preaching? Also how am I to know to tell you anyway.
    I told him that it was a reaction to the volume and that it hurt my ears. He said I like it that way and
    basically it is your prerogative to leave if you don’t like it….I thought that he was RUDE.

    • Hloni on June 8, 2018 at 1:00 am

      He was rude an example of people with I just can’t stand people like that ….

  6. Luke on January 5, 2018 at 11:43 am

    I think you meant to put this line the other way around under “the humble take the low place”. It reads: “They adopt a posture of being served rather than serving.”

    This was such a beautiful article. I came on staff at a new church plant here in Jamaica last June and I have been learning all these lessons. Thank you very much for the timely reminder.

  7. Feelingfrustrated81 on October 26, 2017 at 10:51 am

    How do we deal with this type of leader?

    • Tamara Manuel on March 25, 2018 at 8:24 am

      Pray, Pray and Pray some more! Write down all the positive aspects of the leader and why you appreciate those aspects. Then write down the negative aspects you believe the leader is showing. Write down why you believe this. Then write down scriptures for both the good and bad attributes. Again Pray, Pray and Pray some more. With a humble spirit ask God when is the write time to meet with the leader. Go from this point as God leads you.

  8. nzyoka on October 4, 2017 at 2:11 am

    wonderful piece.as a leader and an upcoming one, this is good for me. am sure that part of this has touched me and am trusting God to be a very humble person,Thanks for the great message

  9. […] Read more. […]

  10. Nat on September 21, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    This is great! More of this please, especially more practical exercises I can do to be humble.

  11. B on August 30, 2017 at 9:08 am

    Beware of a person name Hannah Low Siong Hui who lives in Malaysia. She will gossip about you and your affairs to people. She is very wicked and self-centered always focusing and reminding people of their wrongs. Does not think about her own wrongs. Is controlling,donineering,bossy and sick. Is proud and arrogant and does not want to admit and acknowledge her wrongs. Refuse to admit that she has a problem when she does and to get help when she needs. Has learn biblical teachings but does not apply them. Shame on her! What of Christian is this you tell me? An evil one! May God take harsh vengeance on her!

    One of the victims

  12. God's Humble Servant 22 on August 25, 2017 at 6:45 am

    Even Christ Himself was humble. Who are we to think that we can come in a different way.
    Lord let me always to have a servant’s heart, and Never think of myself more highly than I ought to.
    In Jesus Mighty Name…I pray. Amen…

  13. Brandon James on November 8, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    Truly great. Thanks for this 🙂

  14. Maranata Nunez on July 10, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    A GREAT SUBJECT! Thanks for sharing!

    Please, I would like to know where to find the series called “Like Jesus”, because when I clicked on the link you provided, it took me to a “404 Error” page. Thank you in advance!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 11, 2016 at 4:57 am

      So sorry about that. That series is no longer available. I’ll remove the link.

  15. Nancy Vang on February 18, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Indeed, I really needed to read this! What a beautiful read! God bless you 🙂 You’re also helping a lot people who are probably struggling with this! Thank you so much!

  16. adam on September 11, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    this is very important for anyone to read thank you for putting time into making and sharing

  17. Jayson Alimento on April 24, 2015 at 2:38 am

    I have learned more this article.,.. thanks so much for the author who posted this very comprehensive post.

  18. Breaking silence on April 15, 2015 at 6:45 am

    I find myself as a prideful person who only thinks of myself. also Very patient and put only WEAK peoples feeling above my own..but,i will attack arrogant people with patients and stealth like attacks..that make me feel good ..i don’t even talk to the person ..i will attack from any angle that i can .i Have no respect for people of authority but,will ignore them at all cost ..if conftonted i will make them feel incharge and the whole time looking for weekness in them .. I am a very emotionally dangerous person to people who think they are above me ..i will attack them at all costs if they cross me..i do not prey to god jesus or any other ..i wish i had a relationship with Jesus i have tried but, demons have put a strangle hold on my complex life ..i will not be in the kingdom of heaven.. So i am a lost sole as the bible says …i am coflicted on posting this message .. I do not want to offend people or scare christians ..i am in need of prayers that will help break the chains of pride that weigh my heart and sole ..i also am married to a very jealous humble out spoken woman who i love and hate she is the only person who knows how to stir my anger it makes me feel alive ..only person i call my friend and mean it….

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 15, 2015 at 6:51 am

      Wow…thank you for breaking silence. This is the beginning of a new day. Amazing. I hope you can tell someone you know, and keep praying to God for forgiveness, grace and the courage to change. You can do it!

    • nzyoka on October 4, 2017 at 2:38 am

      God is able brother.May He help us to be humble.The first thing is to accept the Lord Jesus as your Lord and saviour(Romans 10:8-10) who will then give you humility as He is (Philipians 2)

  19. linda nzeadibe on April 5, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    I completely agree with this article! I honestly think Christians should take the time to read this. My original purpose for looking up this article was for my parents because they are very prideful Christians. Im going to show this to everyone i know. Thank you

  20. Brian Covert on February 28, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    I am a Christian, and I am not perfect, at all. God is still “working on me.” I think many people choose to shun Christianity because so many Christians present poor examples of the Christian life. For me, Christianity is about having a relationship with Jesus. It’s not about following a bunch of man-made, legalistic rules, and it’s certainly not about judging and condemning others for not living the way you think they should be living. I’ve worked for supervisors who are prideful and micro-managing. It’s not fun, and it doesn’t change. Usually, the employee, such as myself, ends up moving on. There is no appeasing a boss like that. Life is too short.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 1, 2015 at 8:20 am

      Interesting analogy, and for sure Brian, I agree!

  21. CSMAN22 on December 12, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    ALL leaders have problems with pride…as do all followers of Christ. Realizing how important it is to “know Christ and His sufferings” allows me to pray for my pastor(s) as I discern pride and other signs of imperfectness from their finite selves. Prayer, as we discern is most important….to keep us from becoming cynical or apathetic and to support those that lead us.

  22. Sondra on November 11, 2014 at 9:45 am

    My pastor from my youth said, Every morning we wake up we should apologize to our loved ones for anything we might do to hurt them through out the day, because we are very capable especially towards our spouses. One person I know, never apologizes, and I thought it is because he does not realize that he made a mistake. But the more I know him the more I see that he is very aware that he caused grief, he just does not want to admit that he made a mistake. I would security say, prideful people never or rarely apologize. But apologies are the bandaid to any would and key step to forgiveness.

  23. Serik Baldwin on September 27, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    I Love this!! I’ve been searching for answers on how to get rid of pride.

  24. Mark Cole on May 8, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    This is a ‘must read’ for every leader.. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 9, 2014 at 10:37 am

      He sure does Mark. I need a reminder every day.

      *Carey Nieuwhof, Lead Pastor *
      *Connexus Church*
      *546 Bryne Drive, Unit E Barrie Ontario L4N 9P6* *connexuscommunity.com * *careynieuwhof.com *
      *facebook & twitter cnieuwhof*
      *instagram careynieuwhof*

      *Sent from my personal email account. **If adding others, please use cnieuwhof@gmail.com to include me in the conversation. Thank you!*

  25. Joanna Moore on March 29, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Thank you for this insightful article. I am not a significant leader; a SS teacher of preteens and a sometime writer, but I confess to constantly battling pride. Am I reading #2 correctly? Look at the first sentence after the bold statement….”They adopt a posture of being served rather than serving.” Is this correct? I can’t get my head around it. Seems backward to me.

  26. […] Pride undermines leadership, but everyone battles it one way or another. Carey Nieuwhof shares 5 habits that reveal prideful leaders. […]

  27. Links for Leaders 3/28/14 - Eric Geiger on March 28, 2014 at 8:07 am

    […] Pride undermines leadership, but everyone battles it one way or another. Carey Nieuwhof shares 5 habits that reveal prideful leaders. […]

  28. Alexis A. Cambe on February 7, 2014 at 2:36 am

    Thank you Pastor Carey for those insightful ideas. God has truly called you to be a servant leader reminding us that we serve not ourselves but God. Humility knows this very well.

  29. Freda on January 28, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Wow! Thanks for this Carey. I’m so wary of pride because I notice it so easily in others I just know it’s so easy for me to be walking in it too. So like Paula I’m always asking The Lord to keep me humble!

  30. Leadership Links 1/17/14 | Do You Really Believe? on January 17, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    […] Want to kill your effectiveness as a leader? Be prideful. Of course pride is difficult to detect in ourselves, so Carey Nieuwhof lays out 5 habits that reveal your pride as a leader. […]

  31. Tammy on January 7, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Great article on pride vs. humility. Thank you!

  32. Worth The Read - December 17, 2013 - ablēgāre on December 17, 2013 at 9:23 am

    […] 5 Habits that Reveal You’re a Prideful Leader (And 5 Keys to Humility) | careynieuwhof.com: […]

  33. […] people find depositing one’s load to other people, even to their closest friends, as a sign of weakness. While it could possibly be, especially for people with high principles, depending on other people […]

  34. Jennifer on December 13, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Hmmmm, I just discovered one while reading this article. I spent the entire time reading it, thinking how “someone else I know needs to read this”. HUGE indicator that MY pride needs to be checked. I will be re-reading now, and holding myself against the flame. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

    • Berenger on June 5, 2017 at 6:02 am

      Thank you Jennifer. Yes I found this article because I was having an issue with a leadership couple I find full of pride, and as a consequence I felt marginalised. I even had a dream featuring one of them surrounded by the peacock fan in the picture above. And they surely are stubborn and full of pride. But then I looked again and I saw myself… Especially the part about being the smartest person in the room. Why can’t this couple see how full of pride they are, why can’t others see it? I would ask myself. But of course, ha ha, that makes me pretty full of pride eh.

  35. Paula Neal Mooney on December 12, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Good article. I could go on for days, but it’s funny how sometimes we use the word “pride” as if it’s a good thing. When it comes off as arrogance it’s very unattractive, and drives people away from churches. But then, doesn’t the Bible say that “pride goes before a fall” — so dear Lord humble me gently is always my prayer!

  36. 5 Habits that Reveal You're a Prideful Leader (... on December 12, 2013 at 11:20 am

    […] How do you know if you're a proud leader? 5 signs you're a proud leader and 5 keys to humility. (Sometimes it's hard to know whether you're proud or humble.  […]

  37. Todd D on December 9, 2013 at 11:04 am

    I’m so proud of the fact that I’m not guilty of any of these.

    • jabez6311 on February 10, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      Belly laugh! Needed that!!

    • Richard on July 20, 2019 at 8:18 am

      ROTFL…. that was funny.

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