How to Lead with the Power of Humility

The seductions of arrogance wreck leaders, demoralize teams, and destroy organizations.

“The only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance.” (Attributed to Albert Einstein.)

Everything good in leadership begins with humility.

Subtleties of arrogance:

  1. Taking offense at slights. A thin skin points to pride. “You deserve better.”
  2. Judging others by unspoken expectations. The “humble-arrogant” are better than others because they hold people to high standards that they don’t meet themselves.
  3. Searching for self-justification. Arrogance circles back on problems – not to find solutions – but in search of reasons it didn’t do wrong.

The brother of arrogance is disdain.

All you can do is coerce those you look down on.

Practice humility:

Humility is a practice not a destination.

#1. Acknowledge the subtlety of arrogance.

Humility begins when you acknowledge arrogance.

You have puddles of humility and oceans of arrogance, but you judge yourself by the puddles. My own arrogance makes me skeptical of any other option.

#2. Pursue growth.

“An arrogant person considers himself perfect. This is the chief harm of arrogance. It interferes with a person’s main task in life – becoming a better person.” Leo Tolstoy

Everyone who develops their leadership knows what they’re working on. 

What leadership behavior will you practice today?

Practice is intentional repetition that includes reflection and course adjustment.

#3. Pick up the trash.

Don’t simply tell people to pick up the trash. Pick it up yourself.

No job is menial to the humble.

Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, was famous for picking up trash. “Every night you’d see him coming down the street, walking close to the gutter, picking up every McDonald’s wrapper and cup along the way,” former McDonald’s CEO Fred Turner told author Alan Deutschman. “He’d come into the store with both hands full of cups and wrappers.” (Daniel Coyle in the Culture Code)

What are the subtitles of arrogance?

How might leaders practice humility?