What’s the top reason leaders fail?
It’s not illicit sex, financial mismanagement, or being overpromoted while underskilled.
According to a large amount of research — biblical, contemporary, and my own interviews of 80 top leaders with whom I work in a multinational organization — the answer is PRIDE. In many cases, people named isolation and disconnection from relationships as precursors to moral failure. The root cause was often identified as pride.
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” wrote the wise author of Proverbs 16:18. The apostle Peter, #1 leader of the early church, taught that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). Jim Collins and his team researched tons of failed institutions and concluded in How the Mighty Fall that the first of five stages of decline leading to failure is “hubris born of success.”
All this data has sensitized me to subtle forms of pride in my own life. Like an unwillingness to admit blame for something, or reluctance to thank someone, or desiring credit for an idea. My sensitivity has been heightened through indepth study of Jesus, the servant-king, portrayed by Isaiah as one who was humble, merciful, faithful, and who did not raise his voice in the streets.
Humility stands out in sharp contrast to the shameless self-promotion over 110 million viewers witnessed in last night’s overhyped Super Bowl. Madonna, still a brilliant entertainer at 53 years of age, performed a new song focused solely on L-U-V Madonna. We expect that from her.
But I don’t expect it from some of the strong men of faith I’ve been following on Twitter. Recently I have noticed that the vast majority of posts from two particularly influential Christian leaders have fallen into the same category of shameless self-promotion. Not just personal updates; those are fine. They humanize us. But incessant deluges of tweets with links to more and more of their own stuff. I find myself praying for them — and for the rest of us — not to succumb to the fervor of pride so easily fanned into flame by social media.
What do you think?