Why Pride Is the Sin You Need to Succeed

In her new book, Take Pride, psychologist Jessica Tracy shows readers how you can flip the script on pride—and actually use it to your advantage to win big at work

Lust. Envy. Greed. Sloth. Anger. Gluttony. Those six deadly sins aren’t going to get you anywhere good—but the seventh just might. Pride is the sin you need to succeed, says Jessica Tracy in her new book Take Pride: Why the Deadliest Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success.

“There’s a misconception that pride is bad and should be avoided,” says the psych prof from University of British Columbia. “But it’s actually what motivates us and we wouldn’t be pushed to achieve without it.”

Pride is the key to attaining status, power and prestige in the workplace —the secret lies in learning how to harness it. For Global Entrepreneurship Week, Tracy shares four ways to turn pride into your biggest asset.

(Photo: Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

(Photo: Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

1. Pick the right kind of pride

There is authentic pride (the type that sends you on a quest to do great things) and hubristic pride (the type which leads to arrogance and, well, makes you look like an asshole). Authentic pride comes from using your skills to achieve something you feel good about, while hubristic pride is doing whatever it take—manipulating, bullying, cheating—to get that same feeling and then bragging about it later.

2. Put on a “Pride Display”

Hold your head high, practise good posture and puff out your chest—it can make you look competent and capable. In one study, Tracy found job interviewers unfailingly chose pride guy over shame guy (the one looking downward with a constricted posture), even though shame guy’s resumé was stronger. “Just remember to temper it with humbleness so you don’t come across as too arrogant.” That means letting others talk, acknowledging their opinions and generally being agreeable.

3. Lead so others can follow

With pride comes power, and with power comes prestige. But how do you hang on to it? Use your status to share what you know by being an esteemed—as opposed to a dominant—leader. “You’re seen as powerful because others want to learn from you,” Tracy says. “A prestigious leader gets power by being respected. A dominant leader is only followed because people have no choice.” Mentor junior employees, share your ideas and give everyone an opportunity to participate in discussions.

4. Briefly bask in the glory

If you’ve completed a big project or nailed a presentation, don’t hesitate to accept a pat on the back. You’ve got to celebrate every single successful milestone—no matter how small. “People are often afraid to be proud and play down their accomplishments, but it’s OK to feel good about yourself,” Tracy says. Just don’t linger too long in the, “hey, I am awesome” mindset. “Once you’ve celebrated your achievement, take a break, shift your focus and say to yourself, OK, I accomplished that. What’s next?”

All homepage illustrations by Assa Ariyoshi

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