I struggle with pride.
Okay, I said it. Can I be proud of my open honesty now?
I mean, is it proud- okay, hang on, stop there. I’ve got to say this.
I hate the word “prideful”. I hate it. It’s as if someone was too lazy to think up a proper adjective for “pride” and so mixed two separate words like pride and full together like an amateur cook on Masterchief mixing the broccoli with the coca beans. It sounds awful. Proud is the proper term. Proud, proud, proud!
Okay, rant over. Back to the blog post. Is it proud to be satisfied in a job well done? If you are really good at something, what’s the difference between enjoying and wanting to use your talents, and being proud of them?
I particularly think of the tension between talent and pride as a leader. Leaders are out in the open- they’re the people everybody looks at; often they’re the people everybody looks up to. If you have a chance to lead, the temptation is pretty strong to make yourself look really good. I mean, it’s easy. You’re the leader; you’re the one everybody’s looking at. Great opportunity to strut your stuff.
So how do we use our talents and especially our talents in positions of leadership, humbly?
I think the big difference lies in how we use our abilities. Or maybe this isn’t so much the big difference as it’s the indication that we have a different attitude. Since the root of pride is desiring to make yourself look good, the basis of humility is wanting to make others look or feel good. It’s self-centredness against other-centredness.
If you have an official position or simply a de facto influence among these groups and people, then you are a leader. Influential people lead, and sway, and convince others. You are a leader.
Every activity has an objective. The sports team wants to learn how to play cricket, and maybe to win games. The Sunday school wants to teach kids. The political organisation wants to promote good laws. Your friends want to have a good time.
And every activity’s leaders have abilities. You might be a good organiser, or an insightful teacher. You can have a knack at speaking, or simply a charisma that sways your friends. These are all abilities.
The difference between a humble leader and a proud leader rests in how they use those abilities in light of those objectives. Proud people use their abilities in order to make themselves look good. That’s their objective. The clever proud people can even use the objectives of an activity or group to suit their own ends. So they might lead an activity, and help the group meet its objectives (e.g. teach the kids) so that he can hear people marvel at what a good teacher he is. See how he helped the group to help himself? Very clever people are those proud leaders.
But humble people are different. They use their abilities as conduits that help others reach their own objectives. A humble leader doesn’t mean a person who doubts their abilities, or is bashful about them. A humble leader uses his or her abilities as much as a proud leader does. But humble leaders use their abilities for the express purpose of meeting their followers’ objectives. That’s why humble leaders are servants. They lead to serve their followers’ needs.
So humble people stay aware of what others want and need. You can’t use your abilities to meet others’ objectives if you don’t know what they are.
Humble leaders remind themselves to serve their followers’ objectives, so that the objective, and not the leader’s reputation, stays at the forefront.
Humble leadership is a twofold mixture. You use your (maybe prodigious) talents to get what your followers want for the purpose of getting them what they want.
That’s the difference between humble leaders and proud leaders. Even if proud leaders remember to meet their group’s goals, it’s in order to magnify themselves. Humble leaders meet their group’s objectives in order to meet their group’s objectives.
That’s why humble leadership is about serving, but a proud man’s leadership is just about ego.