“In reality there is perhaps not one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself… For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Humility is an essential quality of great leadership. Leadership is not restricted to those who teach or manage people. We all have the capacity to become leaders within our communities, workplace, with our children and within our society. As a leader, if we focus on how humble we are, then we’re not. So what do we do?
People often misunderstand the meaning of humility. They conjure up images of someone who is weak and ineffectual, frequently putting themselves down or becoming a doormat for others. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Humility is not thinking less of oneself; it’s thinking of oneself less. It does not in any way deny our own self-worth.” ~ Ken Blanchard
Conceit has three vantage points; thinking you are better than others, thinking you are worse or lower than others and thinking you are the same as others. All three breed conceit.
How can this be?
Well, think about it…
They all lead to a comparative mind which brings about duality. With duality comes the need for security!! Security is in a constant state of flux. Our position as above, below or equal to will also consequently be in a constant state of flux depending on the group, the times, the environmental conditions, etc. Some times we will be confident while others insecure. So if we are not better than others, worse than others or even equal to others, what are we then? That’s something to consider!!!
Now back to humility…
Humility affirms the dignity and inherent worth of all. A humble leader and warrior gives preference to others and is willing to consider their needs. Humility means putting someone else ahead of our own selfish interests. Pretending to be humble is just another form of pride. How is this? The focus is still on self and people often do so with the motive of obtaining praise.
The truly humble represents strength and confidence in a quiet sort of way. They know who they are; there is no need to be better, worse or even equal to others. They are able to appreciate value and learn when the opportunity arises.
It’s people’s awareness of imperfection that often drives them to pretend that they are more than they really are. They are far too influenced by what others think; on one hand, they gloat over praise and on the other, they become discouraged by criticism. They are in a constant struggle in an attempt to prove that they are valuable and worthy.
Our society is built on competitiveness, whether business, sports, educational institutions, etc. This inherently creates conflict and where pride rears its ugly head. It’s much too easy to point out the faults, weaknesses and mistakes of others than it is to face our own. The resultant is people who should otherwise be able to enjoy working, training, and accomplishing common goals instead find themselves in bickering, belittling, scheming and skeptical environments. In contrast, the humble are free to praise, encourage and empower others. They don’t insist on getting all the credit nor being rewarded for their achievements.
They have no need to brag or gloat but they also have no need to hide talents or accomplishments. They are secure in the person they are, because the need for that security is not there. They know themselves, there is no need to prove anything or to tear anyone else down.
Humility distinguishes a wise leader from an arrogant power-seeker.
Jealousy, envy, pride, strife resentment, prejudice, gossip and greed divide and conquer people. Arrogance has been at the root of many wars and lead to the death of many people. It has been at the root of companies collapsing leaving employees without a means to provide. It has torn whole communities, societies and even countries apart. Leaving it’s people separated and divided.
What is wrong with admitting mistakes? Instead of arguing and defending, why not take responsibility. What is wrong with working together and sharing credit? What is wrong with not being perfect or having all the answers?
As leaders we should know our strengths and weaknesses. Knowing these creates for us great opportunities to grow. If we stop growing so to do the ones we lead. Truth is you will connect at a much deeper level with your peers, students, employees, athletes, etc. As they see us making progress they can start to envision their own progress. We set the tone for how people view personal development.
As leaders we do not want to fall in the situation of being in competition with others, especially those we lead. Instead we want to empower people, help them develop, learn and advance. You want them to be their best, achieve their goals, while rejoicing with them when they do.
As humble leaders we acknowledge and recognize those who can fill the void in an area of our own weaknesses.. Humility and leadership is not a weakness, but the greatest strength of all when coupled with discipline.
I have discussed the Win-Win philosophy in a number of posts in the past to which I am a big proponent. By operating from a win-win perspective you will feel good about your leadership and the decisions you make.. If you’re compassionate and committed to helping others succeed, willing to share recognition, willing to admit mistakes; you’ll take a giant step towards cultivating humility. Your circle of influence will grow and your impact will spread. Your quality of life, relationships with other and inner joy will grow.
The humble leader knows they do not have all the answers. They look for the opportunity to learn something new and they use every opportunity to make others feel valued. The humble leader knows the world around them is changing faster than they can keep up and is grateful for the opportunity to learn something new or reinforce knowledge they might already possess. This is not to say that you need to act stupid to be humble. There is no harm in someone walking away knowing you are knowledgeable so long as the process did not leave them feeling “less than you.” Sharing your wisdom is important, but must be done in a way that “lifts and empowers the other person.”
In the act of being humble, you make others feel important and valued. That is the gift of the humble leader. Focus on your humility and you will find it can lift a weight from your shoulders. It takes a lot of effort to pretend you know it all. Besides, it is more refreshing being around people with some humility. Arrogance gets old fast.
Humility and leadership is a state of mind. It is a decision that you must make for yourself. Only you will be able to implement leading from humility.