World Bank presidential candidate Jose Antonio Ocampo has called for a change in culture at the organisation and more co-operation with other global lenders.
The Colombian also said the bank had lost ground to other development banks and had not been forceful enough in pushing for fresh funding.
He pointed the finger at outgoing president Robert Zoellick for the lack of capital.
Mr Ocampo is one of three candidates vying to replace Mr Zoellick.
The other two are Nigeria's finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and US citizen Dr Jim Yong Kim.
Mr Ocampo said the World Bank needed to become more inclusive.
"The bank has to be a client-based organisation.
"The first thing the staff have to learn is that working at the country level is actually an improvement in its role for the bank, rather than working in Washington," said the economist and former finance minister.
"I think sincerely the problem of working for the World Bank is the sense of superiority."
But he saved his strongest criticisms for Mr Zoellick.
"The current president was too shy in asking for a capital increase," he said.
"All the other development banks got huge recapitalisations ù the World Bank did not, and I think that's the reason why now the bank is decreasing its lending significantly."
Mr Ocampo made his comments after he was interviewed by the board of the World Bank on Tuesday.
He has been touring the world trying to gather support for his nomination.
"In advance of the vote, Dr Kim's immediate top priority is to meet with as many of the World Bank's shareholder and client countries as he can to discuss how the bank can best promote growth, combat poverty, and create jobs in developing nations," a US Treasury spokesperson said.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala had her interview on Monday. Afterwards, she spoke of her "frustration" at what she saw as "inertia" at the bank.
"You have to have the courage to say, 'look, certain things that we've always made this way, they have to go'," she said.
Traditionally, the post is given to the candidate put forward by the US, which on this occasion is Dr Kim. Together with Europe and Japan, it has 54 per cent of the votes to appoint the bank's president.
Under an informal arrangement, in return, Europe appoints a European as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is the bank's sister institution. Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde currently runs the IMF.
However, emerging economies have become increasingly unhappy with this system and are pushing for change ù this year's vote is the first time the World Bank has had to choose between candidates since its creation more than 60 years ago.
Former World Bank director of policy, Uri Dadush, said his preferred candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, would probably not be appointed, especially if all European countries continued to vote with the US.
He told the BBC World Service that change was imperative at the top of the "vital" development organisation.
"The world is different now, the developing countries... account for most of the growth in the world, so you really need to get a change in these international institutions that reflects the new world economy if they are to remain relevant."
Former assistant secretary-general of the UN, Sir Richard Jolly, who is supporting Mr Ocampo, warned of a potential backlash if the US candidate was appointed as usual.
"If Dr Kim was appointed it would be a real backward political step in the international system, at a time when the world needs fresh thinking," he told the BBC.
"I am not sure that China, India and Brazil will put up with that. They will probably set up their own bank, which has been talked about," Sir Richard said.
The bank plans to name its new president by April 20.