Five Penetrating Questions that Expose Humility
Patterns are developing after a year and a half’s worth of conversations with high profile leaders and successful authors.
Jay Elliot, former Sr. V.P. at Apple said, “Great people are hard on themselves. My job is to encourage them.”
John Spence pulled off the road while on his way to a speaking gig to listen and give me counsel.
Harry Kramer, former CEO of Baxter loves to explain how his future Father-in-law changed his life. Harry said, “I want to make a difference with my life – by treating others with respect and never focusing on my own needs ahead of the goals of my team or the organization.”
Joe Tye gave away 100 books and used his influence to connect me with the former CEO of Southwest Airlines, Jim Parker.
Jim Parker couldn’t stop telling stories about the people of Southwest.
Denny Strigl, former CEO of Verizon Wireless said, “I was never good at school, I couldn’t sit still.”
Frances Hesselbein tells stories about the most influential person in her life, her grandmother.
John G. Miller said, “I was substantially inauthentic and superficial. I learned the only person I can change is me.”
Bob Hancox pressed through my resistance to personally connect and now coaches me without charge. Thank you Bob.
Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, invited me to lunch and openly shared his passion to be helpful. “I want to be part of the conversation.” By the way, Doug told me I was taller in real life and I told him he was better looking.
Bob Burg said, “My co-author, John David Mann, is the reason my books do well.”
- Do they focus on others?
- Are they celebrating people who changed them?
- Do they embrace and share their frailties and mistakes?
- Can you see their heart? (vulnerability and transparency)
- Do they talk more about giving than getting? (generosity)
What questions can you add to the list?
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How can I add value to this person or in this situation?
Thanks Martina! YOu add value on Leadership Freak.
Thanks, Dan. You add value to our lives daily. Thanks
Do they listen thoughtfully and carefully?
Or another version of this – Do they extend their unequivocal attention when others are speaking?
Hi Cinnie, Thats great and it’s hard! Cheers, Dan
Are they learning from others?
Yup! Learning takes humility. No humility = no learning. Great.
Do they consider cultivating human relationships or are they soley focused on the process/outcome?
Do they take the time to offer and accept authentic feedback?
Great questions Sonia. I really like the first one… People over processes. Bingo.
Do they act upon the authentic feedback they receive?
Do they ‘Ask’ more than ‘Tell’?
Nothing like some “action” to uncover reality. Plus I love the use of “more” in your second question…challenging.
Are they honest?
short and powerful
Can a leader be too humble? Where is the line and when is he/she no longer considered to be a leader and….. by whom? Many difficult but important I belive.:) This is someting I have wondered about for a long time.
Thanks for adding your wonderful question. I posted it on the Leadership Freak Coffee Shop on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LeadershipFreak
Watch for feedback there.
I would like to add “ do you help others to succeed and do you expect from helping others. These key questions can expose humility level of leaders. When you help yourself to succeed than helping others, then I think , you lack humility. Similarly, when you expect out of helping others, then you lack humility and you are full of self interested intention. I believe humility is about being smart and humble, smart in approach and humble in expression. I believe that humility is attitude and it takes time to build . it shows what you are from your deepest level. I also believe that humility is the sign of being human.
Great list Dan, and from all those that commented. What is consistent for me is the outward focus approach, rather than self. It really is not all about ME!
Do they laugh at themselves easily?
if you have compassion and empathy with other people you will automatically express humility. I think.
Does the team functions as if they were not there?
Meaning humble leaders act as an invisible glue in the team that make things happen.
You notice they are valuable when thay are missing.
1.Are they passionate about their commitment and humble after fulfillment .
2. Do they boost and over market their achievement .
3.Are they considered /concerned about the mistakes of the peers and and juniors ?- what they have done to improve them .
4.what are their action plan to improve the life of people living around them .
5.Are they ready to accept the mistakes committed by them .
6.their approach to the life and people under adverse circumstances .
The best question I have ever heard used is, “What are your top three life priorities. One young man answered with no hesitation, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “My first priority is Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savor, Second is my family and Third would be my job. Yes, this young man is humble and wants to help others succeed..
Dan – as always, thanks for sharing your evocative insights.
I also see a great capacity for gratitude in your reflections. Humility and gratitude it would seem, are closely related.
Can you thrive in the shadows and illuminate the path for others?
Can you smile with your eyes and warm with your presence?
Can you lead from behind and let your cheer push others forward?
Will you leave empty because you gave all?
Will you be happy to see others fulfilled?
Will your time be endless and your imprimatur forever?
Humility elates the soul and let’s us love with every breath, Cheers 🙂
I LOVE your first question! I will also never leave empty because my cup is ever full from having others in my life.
Great list so far! I would add something about being replaceable and grooming the next great leader:
1.) Do they give others the opportunity to step up and encourage them to advance?
2.) Are they practicing and teaching reproducing leadership (are they grooming 2 or more people for replacement)?
3.) Do they surround themselves with people who challenge and stretch the team, or do they need to be the “smartest” people in the room?
Similar to Cinnie – about listening skills: Do you surrender yourself when listening to others?
Can we live with the denial of our actions done in a moment of humility, truth, and acceptance only to be
erased and shunned when uncomfortable, inconvenient, inopportune and threatening. In a moment of weakness and solitude we surrender to our need for glory, accolades, and recognition;
Certainly not our finest hour and a testament to our lack of commitment to all that is pure and holy and what we have espoused is dear and sacred to us. Such is the lament of the disingenuous leader counterfeit in his action and duplicitous in his intent.
Humility is the ultimate requisite for a leader. It is a constant challenge and battle to maintain its veracity and express its face of trust and seek the smile of approbation that accompanies the integrity it rides on. Seek humility and feel fortunate if its brightness shines on you for there is no shadow that can hide it nor leader that can live without it. Cheers. AD
Do they put others’ needs ahead of their own wants? (From “Do they focus on others?”)
I want to take a day off for no particular reason, but my top performer needs to take the day off in order study to pass their certification next week. Who gets to take the day off? Not me. Unless I have a pressing demand like a doctor’s appointment, my teams’ needs take precedent over my personal desires.
Do they talk more about how the team contributes to success (than their own contributions)?
I get annoyed when someone talks about their document or presentation as if they were the only one working on the project. Bad leaders start off sentenced with “I did/I achieved.” I work to make sure I recognize the team effort by saying “We did,” or “Our team achieved.”
Do they delegate with empowerment?
As a leader, I find myself delegating tasks due to the massive number of things I need to get done. They’re important tasks but not always things that need my personal attention or skills. But I don’t delegate just to get things off my plate. I delegate with intention, to the individuals with bandwidth and skills to get the task done, and in a way that guides them to the goal but lets them drive.