When I think of humility I think of people like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. They are larger-than-life personalities. Their humility is surreal; a brand of leadership in its own right. I wouldn’t know where to begin emulating people like that, quite frankly.
Feeling congruent comes to mind as a meaningful alternative. I understand the importance of choosing a direction and then moving forward.
I know what it means to work with enough clarity about where I want to end up. Essentially, that provides the focus for action.
With clarity of purpose, and a vision for delivering on it, comes congruence of heart and mind.
So, as business leaders, why are we afraid to show humility?
It’s one thing to be modest; but humility interpreted as meekness is not a risk most are willing to take. Managers are proud of their success. The position provides a sense of importance and its tangible evidence they have done well. Some leaders remain ‘teachable’ as they rise through the ranks. Others continue to believe they are (supposed to be) the font of all knowledge.
In addition, it’s a competitive world out there. And we need to show that we’re in the mix. Humility can be taken as a lack of confidence; control and discipline. And nobody wants to look weak!
On the other hand, would you mind coming across as an inspirational leader; someone with a reputation for listening to others? Would you ask for input, to ensure you have all the facts; confident in the knowledge you can be decisive when the situation calls for it?
Being humble doesn’t mean giving up a life of luxury to live on the streets. You can show humility in many ways: through gratitude for the opportunity; or by acknowledging the people who’ve helped you succeed. And in business there are so many simple ways to demonstrate humility in leadership.
Perhaps the most obvious is a willingness to admit mistakes. I’ve yet to meet the perfect professional. We’re all flawed and we mess up from time to time. Owning up to that occasionally, and letting people know you’re not infallible is a great way to build trust.
Remember, having the confidence to show humility also tells people that you are strong, capable and resilient. It gives others the courage to ask for help, without fear of judgement. Furthermore, it encourages people to take personal responsibility without the worry attached to blame. What’s not to like?