Thom S. Rainer is a well-known author, consultant, and speaker on church growth and leadership. He recently posted an article in his blog about hubris among church leaders.
“Hubris,” of course, means pride. It’s the Greek word for the kind of pride that goes before a fall.
Rainer teaches some lessons based on the failures of the Big Three American auto makers —
1. Leaders with hubris see others as inferior. The rest of the world does not get it. Others are just not as smart. As a result, these leaders do not listen well because others really don’t have anything worthy to say. Leaders with hubris thus lack patience with others. They definitely cannot see their own faults.
2. Leaders with hubris are slow to see deteriorating conditions in the organizations they lead. The CEO of General Motors declared in a 2007 letter to shareholders: “Our entire team rose up to meet the collective challenges we face.” The letter was written as the two-year losses for GM totaled over $12 billion. Leaders with hubris cannot see conditions getting worse because they cannot believe such conditions could take place under their leadership.
3. Leaders with hubris are quick-tempered. Some of the stories of the tempers of union leaders and the leaders of the Big Three are almost unbelievable. Their condescending and demeaning treatment of others reflects their own aggrandized view of themselves. If anyone disagreed with them or got in their way, the self-righteous anger of the leader exploded.
4. Leaders with hubris expect to be served. The CEOs of the Big Three didn’t get it. They showed up at congressional hearings for bailout money in private corporate jets. Union leaders’ threats of strikes against the car companies garnered the workers such out-of-the-norm benefits that the very existence of the companies they worked for were jeopardized. In both cases, everyone was looking out for themselves, seeking to be served rather than seeking to serve.
In the church world, I think number 2 is the most common. I mean, how many times do the leaders of a church or a leader among the Churches deny that we have a problem? I mean, we’re in numerical decline and many among act as though the solution is to change nothing at all.
Fellow elders, check yourself against the list.