Secret Sauce Sunday: One Secret From Five World Class Leaders
Most words that enter your ears have little impact on your life. But I’m still inspired by words I heard six years ago. It was 2011.
Jay Elliot, former Sr. V.P. at Apple said, “Great people are hard on themselves. My job is to encourage them.” When I asked Elliot what others saw in him, he spoke of execution, connection, and communication. Then he laughed and said, “It doesn’t hurt that I’m 6’5”.”
Harry Kramer, former CEO of Baxter, 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.”
Jim Parker, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, couldn’t stop telling stories about the people of Southwest. (He was CEO during 9/11.)
Frances Hesselbein, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, tells stories about the most influential person in her life, her grandmother.
Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, invited me to lunch and openly shared his passion to be helpful. The simple question, “How can I help?” is central to his leadership. By the way, Doug told me I’m taller in real life and I told him he’s better looking.
One secret: Humility
The secret sauce I see in these leaders is humility.
Humility expands influence and increases impact.
Think of humility as a practice. Sometimes you feel it. Sometimes you practice it.
12 ways to practice humility today.
- Turn outward. Celebrate others.
- Actively seek and act on feedback.
- Tell people what you’re learning.
- Honor people who influence you.
- Enable others to do what you do.
- Focus on giving.
- Acknowledge frailties and weaknesses while still reaching high.
- Build relationships.
- Bring compassion/empathy to challenge.
- Say, “Thank you.”
- Laugh at yourself.
Tip: Use these practices as guides for hiring and topics for one-on-ones.
How might leaders practice humility?
Bonus: 15 Ways to Tell if Someone is Arrogant or Humble
Thanks Dan, great post! I find humility difficult and it resonated with me that I should always be practising. I find it difficult because without telling others of my accomplishments, I find that I’m looked over for interesting roles.
In my career I’ve observed that if my manager is overlooking my accomplishments there can be two root causes – firstly perhaps what you’re accomplishing isn’t of value to the organisation – this is worth checking to ensure your efforts are focussed on the things that matter most, or secondly you’re working for people that don’t value your leadership / contribution.
A subtle way of opening your managers eyes is to check with them for guidance “I’ve been focussing on and achieving X and wanted to check this is in alignment with what the organisation and you require?” – this (a) allows you to voice what you’re achieving and (b) gain guidance on whether it is really of value. This is upward to your manager.
It shouldn’t be confused with humility that you express as a leader to your follows. Humility is a great and vital tool for leading those that follow you.
Thanks Rob. Brilliant suggestion to have conversations to clarify your focus and be sure you are doing things that matter.
Thanks Cathy. You’ve hit on an important idea. Humility is a challenge because we want recognition.
I suppose it would sound noble to say that recognition doesn’t matter. But in organizational life, others need to recognize what you are accomplishing.
Rob’s suggestion to initiate performance conversations is good for everyone involved.
To add to his suggestion. It’s useful to recognize others on the team who have contributed to the success of your projects. When you recognize that people helped you succeed you also are letting people know that you are succeeding.
Perhaps a support staff person went the extra mile. Let others know the role they played in your successful project.
To be recognized for ones contributions is feeling useful, to be left out can be hurtful. Comes down to what do you want for your contributions? Everyone is different in expectations for their contributions, sometimes a simple “great job” works and for others it doesn’t, as they see it as their job and the accolades mean nothing to them, or so they say. (Everybody likes an at a boy or at a girl) .
If we seek nothing in return for our contributions other than to build a better organization, team of workers/ contributors perhaps we are missing something as well, “learn to offer praise ” when its deserved, and if you don’t get recognized today, perhaps it will be tomorrow.
As you noted, many people do have a bias towards tall people, especially male. Not to take away from the great feedback – just something we should be aware of because we are mostly unaware.
Thanks Ani. That bias is one reason I kept that sentence in the post.
Your piece on arrogance and humility from 2011 is worth reposting as more than a link. It’s the crux of leadership! Thank you for reminding us…
Recognition is key. If you’re not recognizing your direct reports, then it goes to reason you wouldn’t be recognized and this shows a cultural issue within the organization.Be the change and example.
Greetings Dan- Thank you for this excellent post. Proverbs 11:2 offers sage advice in this area: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” There are few attitudes that repel people more than arrogance. Humility in the anadote. Unfortunately, it often takes much humiliation to become humble.
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