Authentic pride is a strong source of motivation. It has a great, long-term effect on our performance. So how can leaders make their people feel proud?

The Power of Authentic Pride

Pride and fear are two of our deepest feelings. They are both also powerful sources of motivation. And yet, pride has a greater, more positive longer-term effect on our performance.

Legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, said: “Fear may work in the short term to get people to do something, but over the long run I believe personal pride is a much greater motivator. It produces far better results that last for a much longer time.”

So, leaders and companies should conduct themselves in a manner that would make their people proud. But how?

Authentic Pride

We all want to feel proud of our selves. It’s an important part of our self-esteem, and how we view ourselves. University of California, Davis, psychologist Jessica Tracy, PhD., and her colleague, Rick Robbins, PhD., have conducted research on pride. Among their conclusions is that pride is closely linked to self-esteem and respect.

Pride makes us feel more connected and committed to those who make us proud. The same is true for our social and professional connections and communities. We want to be proud of the companies we work for. We want to say with pride that we work for company X, or are part of team Y.

When we are proud of our companies we are more motivated, more engaged, more loyal. That drives higher performance and better results. Hence, positive pride is good for us and great for our companies. Leaders should make it their goal to make us proud of them and our companies.

Furthermore, it’s also important for us to be proud of the communities we live in, cities, states, and countries. When we take pride in our city of country we become loyal and engaged citizens. We become passionate ambassadors.

Pride and Leadership

But what makes us feel proud? And, conversely, what makes us feel ashamed in our companies and leaders?

It’s easy to think that it’s all about financial results. That if our company is doing well financially, we will be proud of it (and ourselves). And, if it’s doing poorly, we will be equally ashamed.

Purpose and Values Matter

Obviously, performance and results are important attributes. However, I believe that shared values and purpose are stronger, deeper sources of pride. Leaders make their people proud and confident when they stand for the values shared by them. When their behavior and actions are consistent with these shared values and culture.

For example, when a company says it supports inclusion and goes and hires people with disabilities. When a company says it believes in diversity and has appropriate representation of minorities. Or, when a company says it has zero tolerance for sexual harassment and terminates anyone that violates that code.

Case in point, after Trump’s executive order banning refugees and immigrants from certain countries from entering the United States, Intel has issued a company statement on its website reaffirming its support of lawful immigration and commitment to support any affected employees.

Conversely, when soon after the presidential elections IBM’s CEO issued an open letter in support of Trump, an IBM employee quit the company. That employee issued her own open letter to her CEO stating that she cannot work for a company that violates the values she feels strongly about.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Leaders and companies need to have a clear and meaningful purpose. Furthermore, it’s important that teams and organizations establish and communicate their shared values. These values should be real and genuine. Not just nice words to write on the company’s website.

Also, leaders have to exemplify these values in their actions and conduct. In other words, “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk”. Especially when doing the right thing may result in losing money or customers. People are not stupid, and they are quick to detect insincerity and phony behavior. Leaders earn trust and pride with their actions, performance, and staying true to their words and commitments.

The Positive Effects of Pride

And there are great rewards for those who make their people proud. For example, Intel just announced record earnings for 2016. Furthermore, companies that make their employees proud also generate passionate customers and fans.

These customers become more engaged and loyal to the company’s brand. Also, they are more likely to actively promote the brand to their friends and contacts. Effectively becoming passionate ambassadors of the company and its brand.

Conversely, when companies violate the values that are important to their employees and customers they experience an adverse effect. Case in point, the recent #DeleteUber campaign that has been spreading fast on social media.

This campaign is a backlash against Uber in response to accusations that the company intended to profit from a protest against the above Trump’s executive order. To date, more than 200,000 customers have deleted their Uber accounts.

At the same time, Uber’s rival, Lyft, has enjoyed a surge of new customers. This is after it announced that it will be donating $1M to ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU is a non-profit organization that provides legal defense and services to those affected by Trump’s executive order. In their statement, Lyft said that it is: “firmly against these actions, and will not be silent to issues that threaten the value of the community.”

In conclusion, to earn people’s pride, leaders need to stand for something. Something that embodies and represents the values that are meaningful and important to their people. Surely, that comes with a risk of upsetting other people. And yet, as the famous saying goes, if you’re not upsetting anyone you’re probably not doing anything meaningful.



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