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17 Oct '13

The temptation of leaders

Posted by T.J. Addington in arrogance, humility, Managing the shadow side
It is a potential sin of all who lead and it is fed by success, knowledge and the power inherent in leadership. It is arrogance: hubris or pride – an inflated view of our own self importance.


As a reader of history I have run across any number of individuals who suffered from this deficiency. George Patton wrote this in his diary in the Second World War: “When I think of the greatness of my job and realize that I am what I am, I am amazed, but on reflection, who is as good as I am? I know of no one!” And then there was Winston Churchill who said that history would be kind to him because he would write it.


God has a lot to say about arrogance including this nugget in 1 Samuel 15:22-23 regarding Saul:


“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”


Why is arrogance so distasteful to God? Certainly because humility is what he looks for in leaders since humble leaders are teachable and able to follow while arrogant leaders do not have either ability. Arrogant individuals have an inflated view of their own importance and thus listen less, feel entitled to special treatment, demean those around them in attitude or words and essentially raise themselves by putting down others. If not checked, arrogance can become narcissism and that is where King Saul found himself.


How do we protect ourselves against arrogance? One of the ways I do so is to lead through team which does not limit my influence but it does my power as that power is an intentionally shared power.


In addition, being aware that privilege brings with it the temptation to inflate my own importance, I seek to keep a sense of who I am and my own vulnerabilities. The more I know the “full me” including my shadow side, the less likely I am to think I am any different from others (I am not). Arrogant individuals are able to overlook the areas of their lives that are problematic or excuse them away. When we do that we run the risk of losing our perspective on whom we really are.



Finally, the more we serve others the less likely we will be to develop arrogance. Serving others is the posture of a good leader and of Jesus. Service develops humility as we identify with our staff rather than see ourselves above them. Humility before God and men keeps us from the sin of arrogance.