It’s Hard to be Humble

“Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way” Mac Davis wrote this song when I was a kid, as a parody. I think it does a great job of highlighting the importance of humility. Humility is a tough behaviour to practice. Here is a great link on humility that my friend and former student, the Researcher, sent me.

The real challenge is to get humility and self-confidence in balance. We know that leaders are judged as more effective by followers when they demonstrate confidence, optimism, resilience and hope. Belief in your own abilities and in your vision is essential because people want to know that you are confident in the direction you have set for the organization.

At the same time, we like people who have a good self-estimate of their own abilities. Those who know that they don’t know everything.  Those who are willing to engage with others to solve problems. So how does one admit that they don’t know it all, that they need help while at the same time demonstrate self-confidence?

If I knew the answer to that question I would have published the book and be on a speaking tour right now.  Here is what I do know. Right now we have too much self-confidence and not enough humility in our workplaces,  probably driven by the self-esteem movement.  It’s only going to get worse as the millennial generation enters the work force.

I do know that I have to work on the balance between humility and confidence. I continue to work on it every day. As a leader, I need to know what I don’t know. One more thing about leadership that is hard.


Categories: Leadership, Self-management

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2 replies »

  1. I’ll give you a start on your speaking tour. First drop the self-esteem movement cop-out and look into history under humility.
    Leaders who had the trait of humbleness didn’t come by it naturally. It was learned, quite often, the hard way. The scientific term “Cause and effect.” As kids if they pulled a stunt that they should know better than to do but did anyway then their parents, grandparents, neighbours, teachers or the local cops gave them a kick in the ass. That person would then pick the kid up by the scruff of the neck and take them home where they received a second helping of education. If there was any back talk after the first helping a second round would verify that the first was only a teaser.
    There used to be consequences in life to all actions that a person took. Some good, some not so good. The not-so-good is what made you humble because you learned the hard way to think through your actions before you took them. If the likely consequences were a kick in the ass if you were wrong or didn’t know why you were doing it you asked questions and got the right information.
    Today’s snot nosed, self confident entitled children in adult bodies swarming the halls of corporate North America never went through that education. They’ve grown up in a world where they have learned the abuse of power. They were given the right to have teachers fired, parents jailed, grandparents fearful and cops doing their bidding and most of them couldn’t tell you who their neighbours were.
    Our laws in society have changed, mostly to our detriment. Don’t get your hackles up, I know there was abuse of children. However, now as then, the real abuse goes unreported and unaffected by the new laws to protect children. We have only accomplished turning legitimate caring parents into criminals with the stroke of a pen. Why shouldn’t today’s corporate climbers feel self-confident with no hint of humility? They have yet to pay the piper.

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