There is a five-letter word that is one of the biggest downfalls of many people at work and in life—PRIDE. And with pride comes ego. Author Ryan Holiday, in his book, Ego Is the Enemy, defines ego as a sense of superiority and certainty that exceeds the bounds of confidence and talent.
A big ego is not your amigo. Egocentric people are easy to spot, and other people quickly pick up on the fact that are all about themselves. Most of us would 100% rather work with someone who is humble.
The Anecdote is Humility
So, let’s explore humility in more detail. One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes is, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” Humility is the ability to view yourself accurately as an individual with talents as well as flaws while being void of arrogance and low self-esteem. It is an important quality that doesn’t get a lot of press because it is sometimes linked with weakness or being subservient. In the book Good to Great, researchers studied nearly 1,500 high-performing Fortune 500 companies over a thirty-year period. Humility was one of the distinct characteristics found in the successful leaders of these companies.
In the Ideal Team Player, Patrick Lencioni shares that in his organization, they hire people who are humble, hungry, and people smart. Lencioni says that humility is the non-negotiable in that formula.
Behaviors that Demonstrate Humility
People who are humble are slow to seek attention for themselves and quick to point out the contributions of others. They minimize status differences, listen to others, seek input, admit mistakes, apologize, and have a willingness to be vulnerable.
I believe that humility is one of the most important traits of a leader. You have probably heard the term servant leadership. Servant leaders lead with humility. They understand that they are not the smartest person in every room and realize that they don’t need to be. They encourage people to speak up, respect differences of opinion, and champion the best ideas, regardless of whether they originate from a top executive or a front-line employee. When things go wrong, humble leaders admit their mistakes and take responsibility. When things go right, they pass the credit to others.
How Humble Are You?
You might be curious as to whether you are perceived as humble by those around you. Try taking this self-assessment to get a sense of how you are doing.
Developing Your Humility
If you aren’t as humble as you’d like, here is some good news. Humility is something you can develop over time. By practicing it regularly, you can get better at it. Here are some things you can do:
Graciously ask for and accept feedback.
Look for opportunities to ask others for their insights and integrate them into your work.
Listen actively to others.
Admit when you make a mistake.
Apologize when appropriate.
Make sure that you are showing appreciation for others and giving them credit where credit is due.
Be willing to go first and be vulnerable, even though it may feel uncomfortable.
Cultivating humility will make you a better teammate and leader. As a result, you will have better relationships and be more successful at work and in life.