Lessons Learned: Pride is a Character Failure

By | November 20, 2019

[November 20, 2019]  The defining of character, which colors our deeds and speech, is what separates this blog from traditional leadership websites. With the study of character we can see those primordial emotions that pull us into an abyss of conceit, vanity, and arrogance.  Pride is overindulgence.  Pride is an excess that pushes us upward to elation but also downward into the depths of hell.

“Our vanity is hardest to wound precisely when our pride has just been wounded.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher and cultural critic

All humans have flaws.  Pride, like greed, is one of the original seven vices identified in Christianity.  We all can identify with the idea.  When we win a game, get a promotion at work, or receive recognition for a job well done; we are prideful.  Yet, pride is the original and most serious of sins; a perversion of dignity and holiness.1

Pride is a dangerously corrupt selfishness.  It is the putting of one’s own desires, urges, wants, and whims before the welfare of other people.  Pride, in particular excessive pride, is the twisting of leadership.  We have all experienced a boss who sees himself better than those around him.  We have all suffered at the hands of excessive pride in someone who has power over us.  We have witnessed firsthand the destructive forces that come about when pride comes into play.

Recent studies of the actions of the heads of governments by Peter Beinart2 and David Owen3 has given us additional insight.  Their work shows how pride grows when leaders are put into positions of power.  Those in power can become irrationally self-confident in their own abilities and are reluctant to listen to the advice of others and impulsive in their actions.

The Biblical proverb “pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall”4 is an ancient and modern view.  Pride is that which blinds us and causes us to act in foolish ways that belie common sense.  Thus, leaders are particularly vulnerable and should put this lesson learned in their leadership rucksack and occasionally review it to insure they have not adopted pride unseen.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins#Pride
  2. https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2010/06/10/failure-american-jewish-establishment/?pagination=false
  3. http://www.lorddavidowen.co.uk/hubris-syndrome-an-acquired-personality-disorder-a-study-of-us-presidents-and-uk-prime-ministers-over-the-last-100-years/


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday 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 “Lessons Learned: Pride is a Character Failure

  1. Yusaf from Texas

    Something we’ve not addressed here or by Gen Satterfield is how PRIDE in combination with some of the other “7 deadly sins” creates a perfect storm of problems for the individual and those around him. Just think about it, imagine your boss having excessive pride and WRATH. Wow, I wouldn’t want to work there. The combination of the two leads to what many call narcissism. A powerful, deadly combination.

    1. Tracey Brockman

      Right, this is the continued corruption of our selves for a short term gain.

    2. Tomas Clooney

      Many philosophers and biblical figures of the past have warned us about pride and it’s damage to ourselves, families, and community. We have ignored their sage advice for too long.

  2. Kenny Foster

    Pride is indeed a slippery slope as others have pointed out. The problem for us all is at what point does it become detrimental to us. I will propose that we don’t know the answer to that question and therein is the problem with pride.

  3. Harry Donner

    Prof Jordan Peterson talks about the things we do that corrupt our own well-being. First, don’t lie he says. Second, adopt responsibility. Pride is another corrupting influence that makes us less worthy. Pride is a slippery slope that many folks cannot handle.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Excellent Harry. Dr. Peterson is exceptional when he speaks about how to make ourselves and by extension others better human beings. We’ve talked about him before on the leadership blog from Gen. Satterfield. I first learned about him here. Thanks all.

  4. Scotty Bush

    If you want to see how PRIDE is destructive, just go to Gen. Satterfield’s Daily Favorites page and read the two articles. Here are two individuals who think they know more about what is right and what is wrong and they are “better” than everyone else and thus should be listened to. Shame on both Bloomberg and Vindman.

    1. Greg Heyman

      Scotty, you are right on target as usual. In the case of the Army colonel, he should not be removed from his position (low position I will add) on the Security Council but he should be forced to resign from the Army. He has been insubordinate and just happened to violate the US Constitution.

      1. Eva Easterbrook

        Lt Col Vindman has exceeded his authority, period. They teach you the basics of the US Constitution early in your career. His is, effectively, over. Good riddance.

    2. Lynn Pitts

      I always read these articles and each is worth taking just a few minutes. It gives me a wider view of the world. The two today are good. I recommend them.

    1. Valkerie

      Agreed, some pride is a positive motivator, too much pride is highly destructive and this is what General Satterfield is getting at.

    2. Max Foster

      Good points here. Yes, some pride is acceptable but the big issue – for me anyway – is when is pride too much that it causes a huge problem? That differs depending upon the situation and circumstances. I would be – like most – to identify that point.

      1. JT Patterson

        Thanks Max, you are correct. Pride is, however, seen as one of the original 7 deadly sins in Christianity. Why? The reason is obvious, it is destructive in the long term and can cause immediate problems for those who it affects.

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