We continue to explore humanist commitments; where last week focused on global awareness, this week we will be looking at humility. A previously shared definition of humility is "I will be aware of my strengths and weaknesses and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of others." The self-aware recognize their opportunity to contribute value to a work environment and bring different strengths to the group. Understanding that we are neither better nor worse than our coworkers allows a chance to express gratitude for the various roles that each member contributes to the organization.
"Humility leads to strength and not to weakness. It is the highest form of self-respect to admit mistakes and to make amends for them." - John J. McCloy
Humility is not a trait we think of when we reflect on the characteristics of industry giants like Elon Musk, Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs. There may have been humble moments, but they are more known for using an autocratic style of limiting discussions, telling others what to do, and having no sense of teamwork. On the other hand, Jobs was described as a "humble narcissist" seen as an ideal business leader in another article. Regardless, autocratic leadership is a better approach for the historical past with less appeal to younger generations entering or already engaged in the workforce.
Healthy humility is a desirable trait for those embracing a humanist manufacturing approach to leadership. Humility is not "thinking less of yourself"- it's thinking of yourself less. More power can be gained through healthy humility by:
1. Acknowledging you do not have it all together – Faking it is not a trait of a humble leader. On the contrary, they are willing to show vulnerabilities. Followers value honesty in their leaders.
2. Understanding the difference between pride and self-confidence – Humility can grow without shrinking confidence and self-esteem. Pairing confidence with humility fortifies a sense of commitment in leaders that can embrace it -- confident humility says, “I still have a lot to learn, but I know that I can and will improve myself.”
3. They seek to add value to others – Self-awareness develops a balance between inward reflection and outward focus. It can be the social oil that enhances the development of relationships.
4. Taking responsibility for actions – Leaders should admit wrong without allowing others to mistreat the acknowledgment. It may be necessary to explain actions but not excuse the need to understand why the error occurred and become stronger from experience.
5. Understanding the shadow side of success – As individuals increase levels within an organization, it is essential to remind themselves of the danger of power. They must avoid arrogance and failing to listen to others. An ultimate understanding is that leaders accomplish less if they fail to fully engage and motivate their workforce.
6. Gratitude for what is available to them – In a society of scarcity it is essential to be thankful for the likely abundance. We understand that we own nothing and that everything in our care is a gift.
Strengthening our modest side can be further developed when recognized as a desirable trait of a leader.
If we successfully improve our humility in a leadership role, we should see positive results from this approach. By celebrating employee success, developing an encouraging environment, and recognizing accomplishments, the potential exists for:
1. Motivation for more excellent team performance – A humble leader can create tremendous engagement success for teams through enhanced relationships, cohesion, and collaboration, resulting in encouragement, reward, and honor through public recognition of success.
2. Inspired teamwork – Team members are willing to dig in and solve problems when working for leaders who lead by example. The result is a culture of trust and open communication that leads to stronger team relationships working collaboratively and cohesively.
3. Reduced turnover – Humble leaders that appreciate their workforce and are willing to acknowledge their weaknesses reduce the likelihood of employees exiting the organization. People stay where they are authentically appreciated.
4. Opportunity for Improvement – A leader's willingness to work on lessening their weaknesses and increasing their strengths increases the potential for team members to enhance their informal and formal learning.
5. Humble beginnings - Leaders with solid self-awareness and willingness to self-improvement have a higher potential to become great leaders.
Research has provided evidence that teams led by humble leaders outperform those with leaders lacking humility.
Patagonia emerged from humble beginnings, in a blacksmith shop where Yvon Chounarid manufactured pitons for $1.50 each, and the company embraces humility as a corporate value. Patagonia HR screens job applicants for this characteristic from the moment they first engage with the organization. If staff members report behaviors of candidates that exhibit self-absorbed or disrespectful behavior, it can become a "deal killer." They believe that humble employees are integral to their mission of solving environmental problems. They ask candidates to share an example of a time when they "messed things up." Those willing to share moments of learning from past mistakes meet one of Patagonia's defined, attractive traits.
Healthy humility is a desirable trait for those embracing a humanist manufacturing approach to leadership. Humility is not "thinking less of yourself"- it's thinking of yourself less. If we successfully improve our humility in a leadership role, we should see positive results from this approach.
A proposed first step for individuals at all levels of an organization wanting to know if they are exhibiting humility can review the steps found in How to Be Humble at Work. I suggest checking the list and picking 2-3 items. Then, develop a plan to focus on further improvements in this area of personal development consciously.
I am grateful for the example set by Warren Buffet as an example of a humble leader. Despite being a billionaire, he drives an older Cadillac and still lives in the home he purchased for $35,000. He has also pledged that more than 99% of his wealth will go to philanthropy.
Next week's blog will integrate humanist principles into leaders' roles, shifting to understanding the importance of the humanist commitment to peace and social justice.
To learn more about our work or read more blog posts, visit emmanuelstrategicsustainability.com.
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