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?
Good Morning, I recently started a new position; really a whole new chapter in my career. I had my own catering business and moved out of state due to recently getting married. I had an opportunity to work with a great company and I’m in the management program to become a General Manager and have my own store. What I want to bring is a set of new ideas and helping people find their passion in life and what drives them. I am a strong independent woman and very kind hearted. Since I have been in training I have met a lot of good people and I believe my positivity has influence them. However, I have never ran a grocery store and it’s a lot to learn but I can do it. I just want to make a good impression and because I am being pushed to learn everything in less than 6 months before they transition me into my own store; there is a lot I still don’t know. Reading your post about humility and not be feel intimidated to ask questions I get that. I am nervous that associates will see that I have a lot to learn and why would they place me in a management position? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
Thanks Vicky. You earned this opportunity. Humility isn’t making yourself less than you are.
You might empower your new team if you come in as a learner who has clear direction and values.
Sometimes, when we’re uncomfortable we go overboard in one direction or another. Either we are so insecure that we keep asking for approval. Or we hide it and pretend we know what we don’t.
Seek information and input without being needy. Humility includes an openness to learning even when you have responsibility.
That’s what comes to mind. What comes to your mind?
Thanks Dan, Well said. Your right and I feel like I am doing the right thing by asking questions. I’m a planner and I am my own worst critic. I think I should know everything immediately but that’s something I half to work on with my self. I need to cut my self some slack. Thank you for your advice and I am sure I will be asking more questions; as I progress in my new career. I am very humble and blessed to have this opportunity. Thanks again.
Thanks Vicky. I know what you mean about being hard on yourself. As I read your reply, I had this nagging feeling that it’s my arrogance that makes me hard on myself.
I don’t mean that we should accept mediocrity. I mean that it might be a good idea to accept who we are as a beginning point. Just thinking out loud
Vicky, in any new job you have to take the time to learn it. It is progress not perfection. Ask a lot of great questions, own your learning and you will do an amazing job! Also, when you ask for your team to help you, you empower them and allow them to show you what they know. You become a team that way!
Great post. Tough stuff. Heck, it is hard to even find good models. I just do not see much of it in practice, which begets the issue, I guess.
Thanks Dr. Scott. Yes! I’m writing to myself and feel the sting. Best for the journey!
“To even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.
Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.
Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.
If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
Wow!! I love that Jody!! Thanks so much.
Humility surfaces when one (a leader) is motivated through the success of others. Refer to David McClelland’s work on the Need for Institutional Power motivation.
Thanks Jim. You learn a lot about a person by the things that energize them. Love your insight. I’m running off to brush up on McClelland. His three motivators fit with my recent focus on dreamer/doer/feeler.
Here would be my translation. Dreamer = Power Motivation, Doer = Achievement Motivation, and Feeler = Affiliation Motivation.
I find that dropping your ego out of the equation solves a lot of things. It gets you to humility more quickly. When you start to have those feelings of that makes me angry, that pisses me off, they annoy me, then your ego is involved. Take people at face value, learn who they are, ask questions of them to challenge and ignite them. Help them learn from themselves. Dan, your posts always inspire me. I often send them out to my coaches on my team and we do a reply all to share of what we got out of the post. My coaches always get such great suggestions and ideas. Thank you for doing this!
Humility is a rare gift: One day i was walking through our factory casually observing everyone, their faces, the mood, and what they were doing as the work hummed along….and then it hit me. Every day our team shows up because they believe that what we believe is possible, that the potential is real, that they are willing to give 8 hours of their day to help make it happen and they trust me and us to do the right thing by them in good times and bad. It was a humbling and, at the same time, incredibly rewarding experience…..I never forgot that day because it confirmed what really motivates me.