It’s always dangerous to write about arrogance. Not only does it “feel” prideful to write about helping others recognize their issues, but most of us also recognize arrogance within others before we recognize our own. That’s why I use the plural “we” in this post—I’m speaking to myself as well as to others. Here are some signs you and I might be arrogant leaders:
1. We always “top” everybody else’s story. No matter what the topic is, we always have a story just a little better, a little more exciting, a little more gripping . . . a little more important. At least in our own eyes, that is.
2. We choose not to raise up leaders to take on some of our responsibilities. Doing that task takes time, and, after all, nobody can really do the job like we can. Why invest in others when we’re the best anyway?
3. We never admit being wrong. Even when we know we were wrong, we somehow justify our actions to maintain our reputation. Sometimes, in fact, we pull the Genesis 3 trick: blame somebody else for our wrongs.
4. We never say, “I’m sorry” or “Please forgive me.” Those words not only reveal too much vulnerability for a prideful leader, but they also reverberate with weakness. They demand that we take responsibility for our sin—and arrogant leaders seldom do that.
5. We exaggerate. For example, we round up our church’s attendance, growth, and giving numbers to make ourselves look better; that is, we lie when doing so brings glory to ourselves and our ministries.
6. We get frustrated when others seemingly less worthy than we get top billing or greater recognition. Sometimes we tear them down among other friends, or we feign praise we know we’re supposed to give. Inside ourselves, though, we think we should have been in that position.
7. We name drop. Our sermons and conversations are littered with the names of significant people we know (even though sometimes we barely know them), especially when we assume others will be impressed.
8. We often make ourselves the star of our sermon or lesson illustrations. What “I” did almost becomes more dominant in our teaching than what God has done. Seldom do we speak of a struggle without an accompanying victory.
9. We shun anyone who criticizes our ministry. Rather than learn from others who critique us (because, after all, we don’t have much to learn in the first place), we bow up and either aggressively or passive-aggressively push folks out the door.
10. We expect affirmations and “pats on the back” after preaching or teaching. To be painfully frank, I’ve sometimes found myself looking forward to them after a worship service—and have been disappointed when I didn’t get them. That’s my arrogance.
11. We don’t pray much. Prideful people just fix everything in their own ability and power; there’s not much need to pray when we can handle all things.
12. We admit that at least one of these observations characterizes us. That’s not always easy to do, but admission is a first step toward humility. May the Lord keep us all humble!
Want to learn more about this subject? Check out these resources: “Preaching with Humility – An Interview with Dr. Jim Shaddix,” “How Pastors Should Answer the Hardest Leadership Question,” and “Staying Humble While Keeping Your Hustle.”
Posted on November 22, 2022
Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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Excellent my Brother. I think this is a more common problem than “We” like to admit. I know I’m Guilty. “Lord, please forgive me and help me to be a better leader.” God Bless!