Entitlement is Crushing Leader Development

[May 3, 2019] Michael Ramirez political cartoons often take on a biting quality when the subject matter hits close to home. In the thumbnail to this article is an older one of his drawings, titled ‘Change,’ that shows an Uncle Sam getting ready to repair America’s image. The cartoon is about entitlement and its destructive influence across the nation.1

The idea that entitlement attitudes are crushing leader development is certainly nothing new. Almost five years ago I wrote about it in an article on my experience with a narcissistic U.S. Army officer.2 I had his Bronze Star medal officially revoked due to the toxic command climate he had created. Leaders lead by example, and the Army leadership had lost confidence in his ability to lead.

Entitlement – a component of narcissism – is growing, especially in our youth. How people develop an entitlement perspective on life is not important here, but its origins help explain where we are today. To oversimplify, the millennial generation was raised to believe they are special; that they will be rewarded for participation and rewarded regularly.

The problem, as I see it, is that entitlement promotes arrogance, devalues experience, and produces an inflated sense of importance; a kind of arrogance. Psychologists will say that these attitudes are a defense mechanism to the real world they have been overprotected from as children. Overcoming this problem is difficult, and I know of no one who has a good answer.

Identifying the problem is the first step to solving it. Many writers, like me, have wistfully pushed the problem to the forefront but we’ve not done anything worthy that could be seen as a solution.

U.S. military leaders are doing something. They are restructuring their leadership development programs to reorient future leaders. This means an increased emphasis on practical experiences to stretch our minds, showing the value of reading, and coaching, teaching, and mentoring. Their point is to push leaders to reach their potential.

To reach our potential is the goal all leaders should possess; otherwise, the leader has lost their standing as an ethical, valuable person. Entitlement means we do not think and that is a horrific consequence of behavior the older generations encouraged. It’s time to take a new path to see the problem for what it is and now to do something concrete to stop it.


  1. https://www.heritage.org/budget-and-spending/report/the-entitlement-problem
  2. https://www.theleadermaker.com/rise-of-narcissism/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

17 thoughts on “Entitlement is Crushing Leader Development

  1. Jung Hoon Kim

    Strong in some cultures, less in others. Entitlement is strong in Korean society.

    1. Eric Coda

      Good to hear from you again Mr. Kim. Also appreciate you letting us know what is happening in other parts of the world and it’s not just the US that has this problem.

  2. Nick Lighthouse

    Leadership is a two-way street. Leaders can’t demand respect without showing it, nor can they require employee trust without appearing trustworthy. Leaders and bosses who expect unquestioning trust and commitment from their employees without reciprocating will be seen as entitled.

    1. Tracey Brockman

      I believe that entitlement on the leader’s part fuels entitlement on the part of employees. That is my personal observation and the opinion of a number of my co-workers that have to deal with Millenials all the time (who are BTW, very entitled in their attitudes).

    2. Danny Burkholder

      So true! I think this is one of the major themes of Gen. Satterfield.

  3. Gil Johnson

    No boss likes an entitled employee. And no employee likes an entitled boss.

  4. Bill Sanders, Jr.

    There are some scientific findings indicate that a boss or colleague who feels that their high-status position is unearned is likely to be much more generous compared to someone who feels like they’re entitled to a spot at the top. Interesting.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Counterintuitive. Are you sure about this?

      1. Bill Sanders, Jr.

        New research conducted by psychological scientists Nicholas Hays (Michigan State University) and Steven Blader (New York University).

  5. Mr. T.J. Asper

    I’m going to post this on the public bulletin board in my High School and see how many heads of teachers explode. Good old-fashioned entertainment whenever I call out their self-perceived righteousness and insecurities. Ha ha ha ha…. 🙂

    1. Len Jakosky

      Let us know how it goes. I look forward to your insights and observations.

    2. Maureen S. Sullivan

      I too look forward to seeing how your posting impacts the school. Probably not much but it will surely be entertaining. I wonder how long it will be up before someone tears it down.

      1. Max Foster

        The intellectual weakness of High Schools has been proceeded by those at colleges. In fact, I would argue that it’s the HIgh Schools where the rot began. If we look at how poorly High School students do in the US compared to other nations, they perform poorly in the aggregate. But if we compare US primary schoolers to others, they, in fact, are rated in the top 10 worldwide. Something is happening and it’s hard to put my finger on it but I do blame equally teachers, administrators, and families.

        1. Greg Heyman

          Good observation, Max. I agree. Thanks.

  6. Army Captain

    Although I’m a little unclear the real difference between narcissism and entitlement, I can say that it is destructive for leaders.

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