Merriam-Webster defines it as freedom from pride or arrogance: the quality or state of being humble.
I find that to be an awfully short, simple definition of a word that when embraced in thought and understood through action has such a far reaching and impressive impact. As I read leadership books, listen to podcasts, and go to seminars there is a common theme that makes the difference in any presentation or value of message. A humble leader is a successful leader. But, there is an important part of this that cannot be explained because humility is not something that can be faked for the purpose of gain. In fact, I believe that it is only truly understood once it is embraced. That takes work. here are what I believe to be three steps towards truly being a humble person.
- Proactively reflect for the strength to practice humility. Being humble is not an easy task to accomplish. Everyone likes to receive credit for what they do and how they are perceived. The best way I have found to practice this is to think about ways in which people have helped me along the way. I select an accomplishment I have made or something that has gone well and then I reflect on why it went well and who, besides me, made it possible. Then I give them mental credit, which affects my belief. This in turn manifests itself in my behaviors.
- Take Second Place. This is not meant to say that you shouldn’t try your hardest. You always want to strive to be the best. Rather, this aspect is about thinking of other people’s needs before yours. We do not always need to be in the spotlight; especially as leaders. Quite honestly, as leaders we should very rarely ever be in the spotlight. We must be sure to recognize those who worked hard to help us enact a vision. A vision is only as good as the group of people who share it. A leader is only an individual. To enact this, I actively look for individuals to recognize for the achievement they have accomplished.
- Take time to honestly express your appreciation for someone. Think of how many times we just want to be recognized for an effort that we have made or thanked for something we have done. More importantly; how often have we missed an opportunity to do that (knowing how it feels) for someone else? This borders another important practice; gratitude. Write a few thank-yous each week to people you lead. A few minutes and words can have a huge impact. Take the time to stop text, typing, emailing, or even thinking to be present and give someone your full attention. Notice those who come into your life and honestly see them for what they add to it. Because everyone does.
Humility. Expressing gratitude for others and putting yourself second takes effort and focus. When these strategies are proactively practiced they become beliefs. Those beliefs become behaviors. Those behaviors become habits.
Humility. An incredibly powerful system of thought that expresses itself with an understanding of the greater good and through the thoughtful behaviors of gratitude. As leaders we owe it to all those who trust in us to not steal the light and claim the prize of which others are so deserving. Be grateful, be humble, be a leader.