The Perils and Power of Pride

I once had a boss tell me that I needed to learn to be a lion and manage other lions.  On the surface, this sounded pretty good.  I mean, who doesn't want to be  the top cat?  When it comes to animals, one of the first things we're taught as children is the lesson that the male lion is the king.  And why shouldn't he be?  He's got a powerful voice, he commands a following, and he's got just about the best haircut in the whole taxonomy of animals.  Check out the facts, courtesy of the kind folks over at Wikipedia:

  • The Lion is one of the most widely recognized animal symbols in human culture
  • As far as the big cats go, Lions are the only member of the family to have major physical differences between males and females, ie the mane.
  • Lions with the darkest and hairiest manes are considered the most desirable mating partners and often live longer lives, although during the hottest months of the year, they suffer considerably.
  • Lions are inactive for about 20 hours a day, and spend about 2 hours a day walking and 50 minutes eating
  • If a new male takes over a group of lionesses, he will often kill all of the other male lion cubs.
  • The female lions do the hunting, not because the men are lazy, but because it would be too easy for prey to spot the male lion and his very conspicuous hairstyle.  Also, with the mane, male lions get terribly hot and over exerted if they move too much or too fast.
  • Once the lionesses have killed the prey, the male lion will then dominate the kill.   He will usually share the food with the cubs, but not with the lionesses (who are the ones who killed it in the first place!)
  • Lions will kill their hunting competitors like hyenas, cheetahs and wild dogs, but they won't eat them after killing them.

I don't think it's any coincidence that a group of lions is called a pride.  The word "Pride" comes from the Latin word "Hubris" which is a desire to be more attractive and important than others, a failure to acknowledge the good work of other people, and excessive narcissism.    Pride is considered to be the worst of the 7 deadly sins, since it's the one sin that's almost impossible to beat.  It's also the sin that the other 6 sins supposedly spring from.

I think we've all worked with a lion at some point in time.  We've had a boss or a coworker who stole our ideas, made us do the grunt work and didn't let us share in the rewards from it, or even a boss who really only did spend about 2 hours a day walking and 50 minutes eating.  What's worse, maybe WE were the lion, making sure that everyone knew we were the most important person on our property.  Of course, it's a TEAM effort, but... well really it's mostly just you, right?  If you weren't there for a week, that whole property would just go to the 6th level of Hell.

The perils of pride are easy for us to fall over in property management.  By the nature of our jobs, we're elevated above our residents.  They have to ask us when they can move in, let us know when they're moving out, pay us to let them live there, and even beg us if they want to paint a wall.  All that power can send us on quite the trip indeed.  I've heard everything from stories about managers yelling at people in the pool for not paying their rent on time, to leasing agents who thought they ran the office because they were a good closer, to maintenance teams who refused to perform just to show that office staff who's really important and in charge.  On the corporate level, we see people ignoring the input of their on site teams because they think the corporate office knows better,  "open door" policies that really just close the door on your career if you use them, new regional managers who come in and fire the "cubs" they think might be a threat or just don't like, and that ever popular refusal to do things a new way because "it's not the way we've always done it."  And Vendors, you're not exempt in this one either.  We all think we've got the best product out there and that everyone should be using it, and we'll tell everyone that before we even start to listen to what our potential client's needs really are.  Our pride jumps in front of our sales all the time, and it's what really keeps us from putting our clients before our pocketbooks.  Not to mention that we prize our contacts so much that when we're talking to each other it's like we're playing a game of Magic the Gathering with business cards. "I fight you with my Senior Regional Manager for Holland!"  "I can beat your Senior Regional with my Vice President of Holland!  Bow to my networking greatness!"

Since it seems no one is immune, and, as I mentioned earlier, pride is the one sin you really can't beat, what can we do?  First, I'll tell you, it's a lot easier to see pride pitfalls in other people than to see them in yourself.  We know our coworker has an ego the size of Texas, meanwhile, we just have "good self esteem."  People aren't proud of their pride and will naturally find anyway to hide it or even justify it to their conscious selves. 

One way to counteract pride is with a truly selfless act, and not one you do because you want people to see you being selfless.  That kind of defeats the point.  When was the last time you took a moment to recognize the hard work of someone on your team?  I don't mean the general hard work with a, "Keep up the good work!" punch on the arm.  Teamwork and a team atmosphere are usually the first casualties of a pride infestation.   When I worked on site, I would often play a game with my coworkers. (Well, I don't know if they knew they were involved in the game or not,but the effects were contagious, so maybe it was more of a disease thana game.) Each day, I would have interactions with these people and Iwould keep track of specific awesome things they would do, like a maintenance tech offering unsolicited encouragement to the new porter.  When I'd get to 5 cool things I'd seen them do, I'd pick the best one and give them praise for doing it.  It made me obsessed with focusing on the great stuff they were doing, which made me focus less on myself and how cool I was.  It always gave me something good to say about everyone, so I was less tempted by gossip and after a while I noticed that my coworkers were recognizing each other more frequently, as well as sharing the credit where credit was due. It created teamwork at its finest.   When corporate calls to give you praise, are you the only one who accepts it or do you share the credit with your team?  How about when they call to complain?  You might be inclined to share the credit with your team by throwing them under the bus then.  My parents often said that when I was a good child I was my father's child and when I was a bad child I was my mother's child.  Hate to break it to both you and them, but your team is your TEAM all the time, whether they're good or bad.  Just as teamwork is the first casualty of pride, teamwork can also be the best tool in fighting back pride.

Next, get real about your place in the hierarchy.  You might be an Assistant Manager or a Maintenance Supervisor, but that doesn't mean that there are jobs below you.    Title, when you come down to it, doesn't mean a whole lot.  It's the job that you do that is what distinguishes you as an asset or a "just here for my paycheck please" employee.  If you're walking on a tour with someone and you see garbage, you've got two options.  1- you can pick it up.  2- you can wait until after the tour and then radio the porter to pick it up and ask him why it was there in the first place, can't he please do his job so you can do yours?!  I'm hoping that as you read this, you're picking option number 1, but knowing that in the moment, option number 2 is just as likely to occur.  What keeps us from picking up that cigarette butt?  The fact that we worked hard and we're now "above" doing that job.  It's easy to forget that in today's economy, we could just as quickly be BELOW that job in the time it takes to receive one email.   Most of the really good managers that I've known over time have all told me the same thing:  I'd never ask my employees to do something I'm not willing to do.  What about you?

And one last good tip: invest your time in getting yourself a quality mentor.  I've got several and let me tell you, there's no better reality check when my ego is getting inflated than to talk to these people and have them jab a hat pin in it.  If your mentor is good, they've always got a pin cushion full of them to help keep you in check.  They also know how to deflate that ego while still leaving the good parts of you in tact. 

You don't have to be a lion to run with the lions.  You just have to be willing to work with and understand the lions.  Sometimes they're going to take your credit.  Let them.  Sometimes they're going to steal your ideas. Again, let them.  Sometimes you're going to do all the work and they're going to work for 2 hours a day and take a 6 hour lunch.  You can't tell a lion what to do, or they'll sic their lionesses on you (It's over exerting for them to fight for themselves), and competing with a lion just means that they'll kill you and leave your remains as a warning for anyone else who might think about competing with them.  Infuriating as it may be though, remember that everyone knows what a lion looks like.  Everyone can recognize one and anyone who's ever worked for or with one won't think much of them.  They're nice to the lion when they're face to face with him but behind closed doors, his reputation for being a jerk is well known. Don't be tempted to be the lion.  Leave the pride alone.

How do you keep yourself or your team in check?  I'd love to hear what methods have worked for you!

(I'm doing this blog series to promote my new seminar on the 7 Deadly Property Management Sins through BTLD Consulting!  If you're interested in booking out for the seminar for your team or apartment association, shoot me an email at

Little Bit'a Lust

Sloth - Ain't it cute?!