“I'm proud of my humility.”

Posted by jlubans on June 17, 2020


Early in June the BBC put out a report on humility and leadership.
It got me thinking about the various traits, attributes we’ve long been told to absorb, develop, achieve, acquire, and exhibit all to demonstrate we are really, really good leaders.
Did you know there are at least 101 leadership skills, attributes, qualities, etc. all must-haves?
#1 is (to be) self-motivated, then to (display) emotional control and standards, etc. #21 is humility followed by discipline, perspective, relationship building, social skills, listening, presence, social savvy, and shared vision.
There’s more: (you must) understand what motivates others, enable others to act, (display) street smarts, make good decisions, and (be) flexible.
#101 is High Energy. Clearly, you’ll need plenty of energy to master the previous 100.
My profession developed its own list of leaderly qualities. Some 150! When I questioned the utility of such a long list my peers were not amused. Some love lists; others - like me - less so.
The BBC report singled out humility as perhaps the most important leaderly ingredient.
The article found, through psychological studies, that “humbler leaders cultivated greater work engagement and job satisfaction among their employees”. And, more importantly, the leader’s humility “give(s) the employees the confidence to disagree with decisions, the fact that the leader is willing to admit their own limits should encourage the team members to admit their own flaws – all of which should create a more honest and constructive workplace.”
According to Merriam & Webster humility is freedom from pride or arrogance. It is the quality or state of being humble. To be humble is to be not proud or haughty.
There is a risk in professing one’s humbleness – it can be seen as weakness. Humble is when we reflect, express, or offer something in a spirit of deference or submission
And, tipping it further toward an impression of weakness, a humble person may be of low rank in a hierarchy, possibly of insignificance.
Yet, writers on the topic suggest otherwise: You are not a mouse! You are a manly man (or woman) brave, and resolute, etc.
Perhaps the perception of your humility is refracted by the level of confidence you project.
Frank Lloyd Wright concluded: “Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change.” That may explain why his structures are high maintenance and with leaky roofs.
Just how humble are you?
Answer these questions. They come from one of the BBCs referred to psychological studies.
Ask someone who knows you quite well to assess how you work with other people. Have him or her answer each of these questions with a 1. Often; or a 2. Sometimes; or, a 3. Hardly ever.
Of course, you will want to discuss the ranker’s perceptions. Perhaps, tit for tat, you can give feedback on how you perceive the ranker’s humility.
1. I actively seek feedback, even if it is critical.
2. I admit when I don’t know how to do something.
3. I acknowledge others may have more knowledge and skills than I do.
4. I take notice of others’ strengths.
5. I often compliment others on their strengths.
6. I show appreciation for the unique contributions of others.
7. I am willing to learn from others.
8. I am open to the ideas of others.
9. I am open to the advice of others.
Can these behaviors be learned?
I suppose so; it is no different than, for example, learning to listen better. First, stop talking, start hearing and understanding.
Paramount for me is that humbleness includes the ability and inclination to ask for help, not try to do everything yourself.
Some of my best achievements came after I asked for help.

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© Copyright John Lubans 2020

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