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Posted by on Jul 27, 2012 in Communication, Leadership | 8 comments

Entitlement: How to Ruin your Leadership

Entitlement: How to Ruin your Leadership

Here’s how to destroy your leadership influence: Develop a thought that somebody owes you something.  Let that thought take root deep down in your belief system.  Before you know it, your new-found sense of entitlement will ruin your leadership.

While I was graduating high school, some of my respected school leaders were going to jail.  It started with the Assistant Superintendent, but the scandal spread quickly to employees throughout the School District.  It was a pretty big deal for our small town.  There were good leaders that I had grown to love and respect that were involved.  Some were fired.  Some went to jail.  Some lost their families.

All of them had fallen into The Entitlement Trap.  They genuinely believed that they deserved more from the system.  So, they took money; they took cars; they took vacations; and as a result, they had to give up their positions of influence.

Great leadership means avoiding the Entitlement Trap, and it starts by guarding your thoughts.  Don’t even allow the thought that someone owes you something to take root.

“A sense of entitlement is a cancerous thought process that is void of gratitude and can be deadly to relationships, businesses, and even nations.”Steve Maraboli

4 Entitlement Traps to avoid:

1.) Entitlement with Subordinates:  Who hasn’t thought to themselves: “I’m paying these guys to do this!  I want it done MY way!”  This perspective, though, will eat a way at your employees’ trust. In business school, we read an article that suggested that in today’s business environment one would do best to treat every employee like a volunteer.  Many employees no longer allow fear or loyalty to keep them in positions where they are dissatisfied.  Running your organization with a sense of entitlement will mean low commitment and high turnover.  On the flip side, overwhelming subordinates with gratitude may just increase their level of commitment to a place you’d never be able to pay for.

2.) Entitlement with Money:  This is a nasty trap that has taken many good people.  Here’s how it starts: “Look at all this money I just made/saved the company.  I’ve put in all these extra hours.  They owe me!”  Before you know it, you’re charging personal expenses to the company card, taking office supplies home and finding creative ways to compensate yourself.  Here’s a good rule of thumb to protect you: If you deserve more than you’re being paid, go ask for it.   Make sure all of your “compensation” is authorized by the appropriate people.  Get it in writing.  Have it approved by the board.  Do it legally!

3.) Entitlement with Family: Entitlement at home comes in the form of Expectations.  I once read that every time you develop an expectation from your spouse, you rob them of an opportunity to love you.  Even if your spouse or children go out of their way to serve you, if you expect them to do it – or feel entitled to receive that treatment – you don’t receive it as love.  On the other hand, if you don’t consider yourself entitled to any particular treatment, then every little act of service is building your love and appreciation for one another.  Dishes, Laundry, Sex, Cleaning, Date-nights, Listening…what if all of these were not requirements but acts of love!

4.) Entitlement with God: In Tim Keller’s book, The Prodigal God, he points out that BOTH sons in the parable of the prodigal son were off the mark…both of them were after what their Father could give them.  The eldest son just had a more long-term plan for getting what he wanted.  After serving his father devoutly, he felt he was entitled to receive something.

It’s easy for leaders to think like the elder son.  After all, you’ve given your life for this work.  You gave up other opportunities.  You paid a price others weren’t willing to pay.  Doesn’t God owe you something?  But let’s not forget…HE IS our inheritance.  And, it’s His joy to shower us with good things.  Let’s be grateful for the opportunity to be a part of His work and let Him worry about taking care of us!

What Entitlement Traps have you seen?  How do you avoid them?

An Inspirational Thought along these lines!

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  • Well spoken. I doubt any of us could say we have never fallen into these traps. Thanks for the reminder. hugs, pat

    • Thanks, Pat. Have a great weekend! And thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  • i’ve seen how entitlement with money can hinder a person’s job search. i couldn’t understand how someone thought they were above working for a certain wage and would rather be unemployed. we’ve all seen how entitlement with money has ruined the contracts of some celebrities and sometimes their careers never fully recovers

    • so true. It’s an interesting balance to me. We need to know and understand our worth in God, but we still need to not thing more highly of ourselves than we should. I appreciate your comment…and congrats again on your blog success!

  • This is a great article Harrison! I’ve had several conversations with people lately who feel their job owes them a raise or a promotion or some type of recognition. In one conversation in particular, I had to tell this person that she needs to stop trying to find appreciation in man and work as if she is working unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24). Seeking man’s approval leads to so many disappointments. I had to learn this the hard way. I am so thankful that I have found fulfillment in whatever season I am in but this only comes through seeking God first and not man.

    • Thanks for commenting, Lakesha! Great insight. Come to think of it, I think I handle the issue the same way. I try not to look to my employers for much, but look to God. He often provides through my employers, but getting them confused can lead to a wack perspective!

  • Harrison, I’ve been a consultant to government agencies in DC. It’s scary how much some of the organizational systems perpetuate the sense of entitlement. It makes it extremely difficult to lead when there is a lack of accountability for people who just don’t feel like it.

    • Nathan. Thanks for the comment. I’m not involved with many gov’t agencies, but I can imagine what you must be experiencing. The cool thing about refusing to develop your own sense of entitlement is that it’s contagious. People around you are forced to deal with their own sense of entitlement every time they interact with you. It may be a small light, but it can make a big difference in the darkest places. All the best, friend!