5 Ways to Answer Self Importance and Move Toward Humility

“I don’t like it that helping can make me feel superior to others.”

The young woman on my team who spoke those words volunteered at a homeless shelter Sunday night. We spoke Monday morning at a weekly team meeting. She’s a thirty-something, owns her home and drives a nice car.

Helping is perilous when it solidifies the feeling that we are better than others.

Leader as superior:

Self-importance – that elevated feeling in your chest – blinds you to yourself and disconnects you from others.

It’s true that in the hierarchy of organizational life, you may be over others. Blindness occurs when ‘being over’ translates into feeling ‘better than’.

5 ways to answer self importance:

#1. Declare your inclination toward arrogance to a friend or trusted adviser.

It’s hard to imagine anyone ever attaining humility.

If you haven’t attained humility, you still grapple with an elevated sense of self-importance. You feel superior.

You may be uncomfortable with my suggestion that you feel superior. Don’t coddle yourself. Arrogance is feeling superior.

It takes cold courage and brutal self-awareness to say, “I don’t like the feeling of superiority that creeps in when I help someone.”

#2. Stay connected. Isolation fuels arrogance. Get your hands dirty. Talk with front-line employees about life. Stay curious about people, not just results.

#3. View yourself as a servant.

#4. Practice gratitude. You earned many of the benefits you enjoy. However, you’ve also been very fortunate.

#5. Lead with an open hand. Perhaps you fear that others will take advantage of you if you lead with generosity. Maybe they will.

A closed heart is more dangerous than an open hand.

Tip: An open hand requires boundaries. Don’t play it safe. Push yourself toward discomfort.

Bonus: Learn from others. The fear of looking like you don’t know points to arrogance.

How might leaders answer that elevated feeling in the chest?