Copyright 2006 Stan Lewis
Long before I became a Christian life and leadership coach, there was a popular phrase which has been used for many years – “You can’t see the forest for the tree.” For several people in management or a supervisory capacity, they have difficulty seeing anything but the tree. And that tree is them self. The point of this article is to stress that no one will willingly follow or be lead by a selfish, prideful and arrogant person.
These so called leaders can rarely see past themselves. These leaders refer to many things in terms of “I” “I” is a personal pronoun that deals with self. It is important to know that whether we are talking about the single tree or the pronoun I, we are talking about things that revolve around self. You know, there is another phrase that says that “pride comes before the fall.” Well I disagree with that old saying to a point. Allow me to explain, there is an acronym that I like to use called SPA. The S stands for selfishness (or what I call I trouble). I firmly believe that self, “I” trouble, comes first. Next follows P for pride, which is followed closely by A for arrogance. Arrogance makes matters worse. Arrogance produces a very nasty fall compared to pride alone. This is because arrogance elevates the height of the cliff that one could fall from.
Self can be defined as dealing from the vantage point of one’s own interest or welfare. When you are dealing in terms of self, it is hard to tend to the concerns of the forest. The forest is the team members for whom the leader is responsible for. A leader should be leading, training and motivating their team, the forest. However, the SPA leader focuses on what is important to them and drags the forest along for the ride. After all, it is themselves which they consider important and nothing is as important as how the outcome of tasks or projects affect their personal welfare and interest.
When you mix together the ingredients of self and pride, you will produce a wretched dish called arrogance. Arrogance is being full of one’s self due to dealing primarily from the viewpoint of ones own welfare. An arrogant leader does not define their self this way. Remember, there is the ingredient of self mixed in their makeup which produces I trouble. An arrogant leader will try to convince others that what he or she is doing is for the benefit of the team. No matter what anyone tells them, especially the “little people” on “their” team, it will fall on deaf ears, because they can not be wrong.
I remember a certain lieutenant in the Navy. He was very arrogant, so much so that it came out of his very pores. A seaman, a bright enlisted man -who had been in the navy only a couple of years, saw that this officer was about to go jogging. The officer had on his t-shirt, running shorts and shoes. The seaman noticed that the officer had his “NIKE” shorts on backwards. This officer was his department head and he did not want him to look bad, so he respectfully let this officer know that his “NIKE” shorts were on backwards. Like I said, the seaman did this respectfully and away from the eyes and ears of others. The officer not only verbally jumped on the semen in public (which a good leader never does), but he also publicly defended the way the shorts where being worn on him.
Now we all know the label of most shorts goes towards the back and the “NIKE” logo on the front, but the “I” trouble factor had kicked in. The officer, having suitably put the seaman in his proper place, went on his run with his shorts on backwards and created a sense of amusement for everyone that saw him run that day. This officer had fallen, as a leader that day, because of I trouble. He could not see the forest that day because, he was too full of pride to see any errors with him self. The fall of arrogance was one of leader to glorified supervisor. No one in his department respected him as a leader. After all, the leader refused to accept advice on how to his pants on correctly. The men in his department only followed him because they had to.
When a manager or supervisor is only willing to see the tree, they fail to notice the forest, their people, around them. Here’s the key point – you will never get the best from those forced to follow you. You get the best of those who desire to follow you. So take the time to notice and appreciate the forest.