The Four Children of Humility
Let’s be honest. You don’t need to be humble to earn money, position, power, even admiration.
Arrogant leaders “succeed”.
Think of Donald Trump, Kanye West, and Kim Kardashian. (I Googled “arrogant celebrities.)
Some might say arrogance is an asset. But Stephen R. Covey disagrees.
“Humility truly is the mother of all virtues.”
#1. Humility is the mother of grit.
Arrogance feels entitled to success, but humility fails, learns, and gets up again.
I work with leaders who sometimes feel stuck. It’s a blow to our ego to fall below our expectations. The temptation to blame and complain is powerful.
#2. Humility is the mother of taking responsibility.
Arrogance focuses on the offenses and failures of others. They should have … . They didn’t … .
Successful leaders focus on things within their control.
#3. Humility is the mother of connection.
Influence is a function of connection. You can coerce from a distance if you have the power to punish. Influence – persuasion even if you don’t have position – requires that others see and respect you.
Humility connects. Arrogance stands aloof.
#4. Humility is the mother of vitality because it dares to try.
“When we linger too long on a plateau, a little part of us dies inside. But when we step out of the space of knowing—where we are fully capable—and step into unfamiliar territory, we feel alive.” Liz Wiseman
Chose humility even when you feel arrogant.
- Encourage someone to keep going when they feel discouraged. Judge them less. Encourage them more.
- Believe in someone by rowing with them. This morning I received an email that ended, “Thanks for believing in me.” I didn’t try to “believe in them.” I just tried to row with.
- Notice strengths more than pointing out weaknesses. There’s more energy in, “You’re making progress,” than in, “You suck.”
What leadership virtues, behaviors, or skills are the children of humility?
Getting ready to meet with a struggling employee in five minutes, hunting for my oars to do some rowing. Appreciate you!
Thanks Scott. Powerful! Yes, grab your oars. I like to ask, “What can I do that will make you feel I am rowing with you.” Or, “I’m in your corner?” Frankly, it’s useful to just declare the intention. “I want you to feel like I’m in your boat rowing with you.”
Understanding we are all human with strengths and weaknesses, some of us have more than others. Learning to mesh all the parts into one becomes the masterpiece of life.
Thanks Tim. It takes humility to acknowledge that people are frail and that we are people.
I think empathy is a huge one. Arrogance says, “Oh you can’t do this? You’re inferior to me.” Humility says, “I was once a beginner too. Let’s figure this out together”.
As John C Maxwell says – a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.
Great post, Dan!
Thanks Josh. “I was once a beginner!” Now that’s something to remember.
I’d like to add to the Maxwell quote: “and knows when to get out of the way”
I LOVE this, Dan. A brilliant way to dig deep into a specific value like humility.
Humility is great, but let’s be honest: you organisation will think more highly of you if you succeed with arrogance than if you fail with humility.
Thanks Mitch. Your idea that arrogance is better than failure brings up the important topic of how we do honor the arrogant. I’ve been mulling that over and will continue.
Your comment makes me think that, in some cases, we’ll do almost anything to succeed. That seems to be a values issue.
Dan, I think the arrogance/humility is a blind around this. If you succeed, most people won’t care how arrogant you are, and the bigger your success, the less they will care. If you fail, it doesn’t matter if you’re arrogant or humble, you’re a failure and that’s the thing people will fix on. Nobody seemed to worry how arrogant and unpleasant Steve Jobs was while he was alive and driving Apple onward and upward.
I can see/remember plenty of instances that could lead us to that conclusion. I have also witnessed that there is much greater appreciation for succeeding with humility than for failing with arrogance…
Posted by Dan for Walt: completely disagree. Type A controlling arrogance jerks use to run things. That kind of leader forces temporally compliance and long term resentment. Does not sound like the kind of place that keeps the good employs. The week ones who think they cant do better will stay. Just my view. I guess if you are there to make it the top at all cost it works. My goal is to lead others to the top.
AMBITION better describes grit/perseverance, responsibility/accountability, connections/sphere of influence & daring/confidence.
I’m not making the connections you are drawing to humility here… I don’t see it here in the post (unspoken?) …
and btw, humility evades respect (it certainly doesn’t require it), lest both become exaggerated.
Thanks for jumping in Rurbane. You bring to this topic an awareness that there are many reasons for grit. I’ll add that fear of failure has inspired my grit from time to time.
I see grit as an expression of humility when we get knocked down – learn – and get up again. I think humility helps us get up again.
The arrogant also have grit. I thought of Mohammad Ali who won the title three times. That means he lost it twice, but kept going.
I’ll be the first to say that the dynamics of humility challenge me. That’s one reason I’m focusing on it.
I dunno, Dan …
Ambition may be the father, humble the mother. 🙂
I like the points you made, Dan. Humility is something I have struggled to see in certain individual leaders. And, it’s a good reminder to check myself, since I see it as an important value.
It seems, though, arrogance is a valued friend of narcissism and humility the enemy. Narcissist’s can’t see and address the arrogance in themselves, it is a different value altogether for them. Unfortunately for those who choose to associate with them, they will be beaten down instead of being allowed to thrive, grow and develop other leaders as well.
Brilliant insights Andrea. If you don’t value humility, why would you even look for it?
I realize I’m more arrogant than I want to be. Thank you
Nicely said, Mario. Thanks
I couldn’t agree more with this. The character of a leader is as important as anything. A leader without humility may get to the top but they will do it by stepping on those around and under them. In those examples it is truly lonely at the top. People will only do something because they fear you or want something from you not because they respect you.
Thanks Dan for you post, the example of Donald Trump hosting the Ramadan feast in White house could serve his arrogance with a touch of humility.
I like this line. “Notice strengths more than pointing out weaknesses.” I like telling someone they did a great job getting their points across in the presentation and then walking away. A lot of times they don’t know what to do with that because they are waiting for the “but”…..
I think for some there is a fear that showing humility makes you vulnerable and being vulnerable makes you weak. There is power in both humility and vulnerability and you don’t have to fail to be either. It can be more difficult to be humble when we succeed.