What can the frequency of “I” in a quarterly shareholder letter tell us about an organization’s future?
L.J. Rittenhouse of Rittenhouse Rankings is known for her ability to predict the future performance of a company by studying the leader’s quarterly letters to shareholders. By looking, even scientifically, at the candor of the leader, Rittenhouse hypothesizes about the culture of accountability that inevitably increases execution.
She has predicted accurately, for example, the future performance of a company based on the frequency of “I” in the shareholder letters. An “I” leader is a leader who is going to lead the organization downward over time.
“Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
By God’s grace, I am blessed to serve under leaders who are humble. But I have seen staff teams, ministries, departments, and organizations adversely impacted by a leader’s pride. Here are at least four ways pride destroys an organization or ministry:
1. Future leaders are not developed.
A prideful leader does not develop others, and this may be for a plethora of reasons. Perhaps he sees no need to develop others because he actually believes no one will be able to lead like him (I’ve heard this stated). Perhaps the leader is afraid his position will be threatened if others mature and develop. Or maybe the leader does not even think in terms of development because, after all, the team is there to serve him and “his vision” rather than him viewing himself as a servant of the team and desiring to help develop them. Regardless, the ministry suffers as pride hampers the development of future leaders.
2. Personal agendas rise above the mission.
A prideful leader’s personal agenda can compete against what is best for the ministry or organization. Decisions, schedules, and actions are made based on the leader’s comfort and professional aspirations instead of the team’s. Sadly, a prideful personal agenda can often be masked in spiritual terminology and the expression of good works. Augustine said, “All other vices are embedded in evil, but vanity expresses itself in good works.”
3. Disunity and discord are fostered.
Instead of healthy submission to one another and concern for each other, pride creates constant dissension and discord. “Arrogance leads to nothing but strife” (Proverbs 13:10), and a team filled with strife will not be an effective team.
4. The Lord stands in opposition.
Ultimately the Lord opposes the proud (1 Peter 5:5), destroys the house of the proud (Proverbs 15:25), and keeps His distance from the proud (Psalm 138:6). Because we often don’t see pride in ourselves, pride can easily impact a leader and subsequently the team. C.S. Lewis wrote of pride in Mere Christianity: “There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.” The Lord is gracious and good to confront us on our pride and to humble us with His grace.
Leaders, if we are not continually repenting of pride, we are damaging the teams we lead.