Causes of Leadership Failure – Intemperance

Woman Drinking WineFollowers do not respect an intemperate leader. Moreover, intemperance in any of its various forms destroys the endurance and the vitality of all who indulge in it. – Napoleon Hill

[This is the 7th in a series discussing the causes of leadership failure presented by Napoleon Hill]

Intemperance: A short word that is long on consequence. According to, it means “excessive or immoderate indulgence in alcoholic beverages.” It also adds, “excessive indulgence of appetite or passion.” The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says of the term, “lack of moderation; especially: habitual or excessive drinking of intoxicants.” The Legal Dictionary similarly says of this word, “A lack of moderation. Habitual intemperance is that degree of intemperance in the use of intoxicating liquor which disqualifies the person a great portion of the time from properly attending to business. Habitual or excessive use of liquor.”

Therefore, intemperance primarily refers to the habitual overindulgence of alcohol, signaled by an impaired ability to perform necessary duties. However, any lack of moderation that has a stupefying effect qualifies, which includes all recreational use of drugs.

“So, what are you saying? If I have a drink with my meal at night, am I intemperate? Wouldn’t that qualify entire cultures as guilty of this cause of leadership failure?!” A good question. Therefore let’s examine the effects of intemperance and seek ways to overcome any negative outcomes.

What’s the Harm in a Drink?

Having a drink with meals may offer some health benefits. According to an article published by the Mayo Clinic on their website, moderate alcohol consumption may reduce your risk of heart disease, dying of a heart attack, suffering from a stroke (particularly ischemic), lower your risk of gallstones, and reduce your risk of diabetes. However, the caution this does not apply to everyone, citing older adults and those with risk factors of heart disease as the principal beneficiaries. For everyone else, alcohol consumption may do more harm than good, and say in some cases it’s better to not drink at all. They warn women in particular to check with their doctor to see if they need supplemental folate to help reduce the risk of breast cancer associated with the use of alcohol. They also give guidelines for “moderate alcohol use.”

However, intemperance refers to the overuse of alcohol and other substances. It implies immoderate use of drink, excessively indulging our appetites. Alcohol Detox Magazine mentioned negative results of alcohol on both heavy and moderate drinkers. Aside from the many health risks, it notes these four physical effects:

  • Memory loss
  • Lack of concentration and coordination
  • Slower reactions and motor skills
  • Slurred speech

As a leader, demonstrating the above symptoms is never good. They impact negatively on your reputation. They also potentially hinder the ability of your organization to function smoothly, since much of that efficiency results from your effective leadership. Clearly, intemperance presents a real danger to any leader, thus warranting its inclusion in Napoleon Hill’s major causes of leadership failure. How then, does one develop moderation?

Getting Your Mind Right

Read Hear Associate

We must watch what we read, what we hear, and with whom we associate

Being temperate, or moderate, isn’t natural. While most will say they can keep themselves in check, the reality is we’re more driven by our desires and emotions than we realize. That’s both a result of human nature and the increasing focus on self permeating modern society (2 Timothy 3:1-5). In an article entitled Developing Self-Discipline and Moderation, Lakesha Gadson notes that, while there is nothing wrong or immoral about most desires, if we consistently allow our fleshly desires to overrule our minds and hearts, it weakens us. Therefore, we need to get a handle on those desires in order to bring ourselves in proper alignment to our goals. How can we do this?

The first thing is to get our minds right. Long ago, Paul commented on the relationship between what we think about and what we do. At Philippians 4:8, he encouraged, “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” He said this as part of a discussion encouraging two fellow worshippers to resolve their differences and get along, as well as helping those of the congregation in Philippi to demonstrate reasonableness in all things. He knew that accomplishing the things just mentioned started by feeding our minds on good thoughts, which would subsequently influence our actions.

Paul’s advice gives us a blueprint for getting our minds on track. To successfully implement what he suggests we must pay attention to what we feed our minds. This includes:

  • What we read. Whether in printed form or online, what do we take into our minds? Is it upbuilding? Granted, we can’t fully control everything we take in. We often end up reading public advertising before realizing whether or not it’s objectionable. Yet, when it comes to our choice of reading, let’s exercise good judgment. If we know we have a problem with alcohol or other substances, avoiding reading literature with lots of wine and spirits advertising is a wise course
  • What we hear. This includes music, live audio recordings, and yes, conversation. All should build up. If it does not, then change the station, literally or figuratively. If a conversation starts sliding into negative talk (in this case, discussions about drinking or substance abuse), make a conscious effort to change the subject. If that doesn’t work, then excuse yourself and take your leave.
  • With whom we associate. In addition to their conversation, our associates influence by their attitudes and actions. We often pick up more from what they do and from their mental inclination than from anything they say. This is especially true when it comes to the use of alcohol and other addictive substances. So surround yourself with people who help you move forward, not drag you back.

With our thoughts properly aligned, we’re now better able to keep our desires in check. We can better see not just the immediate benefits of things, but the long-term consequences as well. That awareness goes beyond knowledge. It encompasses truly understanding all the ramifications to ourselves and others. As Ms. Gadson states in her article, reflecting on the pain our actions bring can motivate us to make wiser choices. This especially applies to the results of immoderate use of alcohol and other addictive substances.

As leaders, we want to have success and inspire it in others. Intemperance works against that goal. Therefore, let’s work hard at setting the right example. By working on our thinking, we’ll take the right actions in regard to the use of alcohol and other substances. Once we do that, we’ll ward off falling victim to this particular cause of leadership failure.

What’s your experience? Have you ever personally dealt with or worked alongside a leader who suffered from intemperance? How did you handle the situation, and how did it turn out? Please share your thoughts in the Comments below.


3 thoughts on “Causes of Leadership Failure – Intemperance

  1. Pingback: Causes of Leadership Failure – Disloyalty | Back-Office Bulletin

  2. Pingback: Causes of Leadership Failure – Emphasis of the “Authority” of Leadership | Back-Office Bulletin

  3. Pingback: Causes of Leadership Failure – Emphasis of Title | Back-Office Bulletin

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