Monday, September 22, 2014

You May Now Kiss the Pride

In several of my discussions with high achievers across industries and cultures, more people said they felt proud of their accomplishments which then graduated into happiness, than feeling happy straight away. Usually, an event of success seems to bring a burst of elation first, followed by pride, which then leads to happiness. So, pride comes before happiness. Interesting, I thought, but there’s more. After some time has passed, recalling those successes most often resurrects the feelings of pride stronger than any other emotion. This is even more interesting, I thought. So, just how important is pride as a driver, or a motivation factor? Also, why is it actively discouraged as we grow up? Heck, it is even one of the seven sins we are taught to avoid. 


So, is pride a motivational driver, or is it a sin? May be, we are talking of different things here? Jane Austen wrote (in Pride And Prejudice): “Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”

More recently, psychologists Jessica Tracy and Richard Robins delved deeper, scientifically, into the subject of pride, and published an excellent paper (read it online here). They found that there are two kinds of pride, or two facets of pride as they call it- Authentic Pride and Hubristic Pride.

  • Authentic Pride is positive and achievement oriented, associated with ideas such as accomplishment and confidence. 
  • Hubristic Pride, on the other hand, is negative and associate with self-aggrandization and arrogance. 

They further studied people and found that each facet of pride had a different personality of followers. Authentic Pride was found mostly in people who were extrovert, conscientious, and agreeable in nature, while Hubristic Pride was generally seen in narcissistic people, who were prone to shame. Not surprisingly, people exhibiting Authentic Pride viewed hard work as the key to success, while Hubristic people saw success as pre-determined, or largely a matter of chance.

So, what kind of people do you want to work with? If the answer is people exhibiting Authentic Pride, then shouldn't you strive to develop it in your team and organization? Good organizations already do this. At Morgan Stanley, the bar to entry and their career success is very high for employees. Naturally, most employees I spoke to (including myself) have a sense of genuine pride working here. Similarly, a friend who works at Microsoft in Seattle takes pride in his work as he believes he is changing the world for good. 

Institutionalizing Pride

Clearly, pride is an important motivator. So, how can we institutionalize it in organizations? Four simple techniques I can think of are:

     1.   Show the big picture. Always, and at all levels. Make sure that every bricklayer, carpenter and plumber sees the grand building. It is important to know the impact one is having on the world, that one feels part of something that is “denting the universe”. The vision, the values and the strategy should be clear to all. And remind these to people, again and again, because it is easy to forget the big picture in the grind of day-to-day challenges. This is the biggest way, especially in a knowledge economy, to align people with organizations.

     2.   Engage the employees. Everyone needs to feel challenged, with a belief that they have all the support as they roll their sleeves up to meet the challenge. Such trust comes much more naturally in an open culture. Therefore, managers must be inclusive, not secretive and totalitarian, in their engagement with their teams. “Do as I tell you, because I know something you don’t, or because I know better” is simply not going to fly. “Let’s do this, because of so and so reason that we discussed” is a lot more productive way of working in a professional team.

     3.   Celebrate the journey. Many people don’t realize the importance of celebrating the hard work and dedication each person is putting into their work, day in and day out. Yes, it is important to reward them when the job is done, and done well. But, sometimes that job takes a long time to complete. Or, in certain functions, is routine and quite monotonous. It is therefore more important to generously cheer small steps and seemingly insignificant wins, than merely pop champagne at the end of it all. Show people reasons to be proud of themselves, regularly.

     4.   Make people feel special. How you do it is entirely up to you, but make sure you make people feel valued and special. Many companies routinely share “stats” such as “we only make 20 offers for 2000 resumes initially approved”. Others make sure they are always in the newspaper for every small achievement. Still others advertise all the great philanthropy and volunteering efforts of the employees. I even know of companies who hire well known personalities in specific fields, in equal parts for bragging rights and competence.

In Conclusion...

Alignment of people to organizational vision and values happens in a culture where motivation is driven strongly by authentic pride, and not just materialistic reward. As a leader, you must vow to hold your employees in their struggles and triumphs, celebrate the smallest of their victories, be candid and honest, and show them every reason to feel good about working with you. 

Go on. You may now kiss the pride. 


  1. Nice, you should be proud of this! ;)

  2. I just now fwded this to my manager. Hope he can learn something and make our life easy.
    By the way two articles with kiss in the title recently. Whats up ;-)

  3. Thanks for forwarding. Appreciate your kind words.