Humble is hard.
As much as humility is an admired trait (for most of us at least), the process of becoming humble is rarely pleasant. It usually comes at significant cost to our ego, if not our reputation.
Leaders today live in a tension between understanding that humility is the path to greatest organizational success and a culture that is increasingly geared to self-promotion. We know that everything we do is ultimately reliant on many others, but we also have to recognize our own contributions. With so much emphasis on the individual; empowered by social media, profiles and awards, and seeing those who champion their own achievements rising around us, it can be difficult to know how to represent ourselves honestly.
For many years I was one who ascribed to the idea that doing good work quietly would always be seen by those who really matter. I convinced myself that any promotion of my accomplishments was inappropriate and selfish. I deflected compliments and diminished my abilities as nothing special. I thought that was humility.
I was wrong.
It’s taken me years to be able to confidently and openly express the things I do well and have achieved. (Maybe it’s a Canadian thing).
I was intimidated by, and jealous of, people who posted their awards or called attention to their successes. It looked like bragging. It was beneath me.
I am learning, so very slowly, that humility is not demonstrated by denying my gifts. It is in holding them loosely and being eager to celebrate the gifts of others. Pretending that I am not proud of the results of my hard work is false humility, waiting for others to prop me up with praise. It is no less insecure than the people who constantly trumpet themselves for affirmation. Demeaning myself isn’t humble it’s harmful.
So what are humble leaders really like?
-They talk more about team than about self.
-They take more responsibility for failures than successes.
-They understand their strengths and use them confidently.
-They understand their weaknesses and show them openly.
-They encourage others to surpass their own achievements.
-They accept praise and thanks with gratitude.
-They intentionally develop others, and themselves.
-They have an accurate assessment of their own abilities and contributions.
-Their identity is not dependent on their performance.
-They commit themselves to the cause, not their personal brand.
-They admit mistakes and ask forgiveness.
-They earn respect rather than demand loyalty.
-They are teachable and accept both affirming and critical feedback.
-They celebrate achievements eagerly and give credit where it is due.
-They inspire humility in others.
Obviously there are far more…
What does humble leadership look like to you?