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Real Life Leadership: Having humility is important quality in a good leader

My latest Real Life Leadership column - Having humility is important quality in a good leader - is online.

The subject of humility is an interesting one. How shall we understand it?

The topic is in response to a Change This essay by Ira Williams - Speak Softly: What's Happened to American Humility? .  It is worth reading if you haven't already.  I commented earlier on Williams perspective on humility here, here and here.

Is humility technique or character?

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It is so easy to read about new ideas and think that if I just pick up this or that technique, that it will give me a competitive edge in the marketplace. That is certainly true if you are trying to master the use of technology. However, it is a bit more complicated when we are talking about skills related to our personal character.

Humility is one of those character traits that doesn't stand alone. It requires a context and it works in tandem with other character traits. Humility is an aspect of how we relate to the human relationships and endeavors of our life.

For example, a person with a clear sense of purpose, very driven to succeed who is also humble recognizes two things. One, that they can't succeed without help, and two, that their sense of purpose fits within a larger context that what is individually beneficial. The same person who is not humble ends up using people to reach their goals. From my experience, the collateral damage that comes with that lack of humility diminishes whatever "success" they may have achieved. 

How does one become humble?
Unfortunately, I don't think it is a natural state. It must be learned the hard way. Some people may be more open to learning, and they learn to be more humble easily. But it isn't something that you are born with, it is a character trait that is developed. And if any of this makes sense, then you'll begin to try to understand how your own ego affects your relationships and how you make decisions.

If you are interested, it begins with reflection on how you presently understand the nature of humility, and establishing some baseline or standard by which you measure others' humility.  Is it arrogant and egotistical to judge other people's humility?  Not, if what you are trying to do is learn from them, rather than looking for ways to elevate yourself over them. 

Secondly, I suggest that you begin to read.  Don't read celebrity leadership biographies.  They provide counter-examples of how not to be humble.  Instead look for biographies of people who sacrificed all they had to achieve a dream.  What you will learn from people like Shackleton or Lewis & Clark, is that the relationships of the people involved with a great endeavor are what ultimately get you through the most difficult stages.

Thirdly, share you interest or desire with someone that you trust.  Establish a regular time to talk with them about what you are learning.  If you do not have someone like that look for a executive coach, a pastor or a counselor.  Write a journal.  Write an anonymous blog. 

Lastly, think, articulate and then act on what you are learning.  Change the circumstances of your work.  To put it another way. We are all products of our environment.  If you are a busienss owner, and you find that the way work functions in your life is to rob you of your humanity, then change how you structure your business.  If you need help, ask.  Because for all of us in order to bring fulfillment to our lives, we have to impact three areas:  relationships, ideas and the structures of the organizational environments where we live and work.

If you need to explore this further, email me and we'll begin a conversation.

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