Pride: Having a feeling of being good and worthy.A common understanding of pride is that it results from self-directed satisfaction with meeting a personal goal.
Principle: A principle represents values that orient and rule the conduct of persons in a particular society. Ethical standards are considered to be principled.
Pride versus principle. The definitions could not look more different. Yet I am amazed on how often these two words, when in action, get confused. Perhaps those taking the action are not confused but they simply try to convince themselves that when their action is based upon principle, that they are really basing it upon pride.
The many definitions of pride are confusing as well. Pride can be both good and bad. We may take pride in our work, our appearance and our family. But the pride that brings on stubbornness and can make us blind to the truth can be destructive.
It is human nature to naturally want the satisfaction of proving yourself, or proving your opinion to be correct. This is an internal battle we face as leaders and as managers. Great leaders learn to decipher the difference between pride and principle. More importantly, leaders learn how to teach others the difference and that by using humility as a leadership strength that one can learn to take a step back, admit when its pride and not principle, make a correction, and move forward.
So there I was, mediating an argument between two successful business owners that when all the facts were on the table the dispute was over less than $100. Let me say, $100 is important, and certainly something to be concerned about. But the dispute arose more from unintended circumstance than from anything malicious. In addition, these business owners managed businesses that generated cash flow in the multi-million dollar range annually.
So back to the dispute:Answers were sought and solutions were offered. The dispute could have been rectified in an easy and quick fashion. But one participant wanted to make a point. So because of “principle”, as they claimed, they wanted to carry the dispute farther. This dispute took several weeks of conference calls and meetings. Three of us gave our time to every discussion, and time really is money, when not spent wisely.
The dispute went on, and because my time has value I had to ask and confront the one owner. Remember, confrontation is a benefit. I had to address the issue to the one owner and ask, “are you sure you are not confusing pride with principle?” He seemed surprised. Of course it was the principle of the matter. But was it really?
There is a time and a place to stand on principle. When your organization is built on solid principles they should be automatic throughout. But when we confuse standing on principle to prove a point or to prove our opinion we may be confusing this with pride. True leaders understand and mentor others on the difference.