Humility, A Business Quality

by Litmus Branding  |  30th Mar, 2017 in Business Insights
Humility, A Business Quality

A rider once saw a few soldiers struggling to move away a heavy wooden log. There was this corporal who was just standing there and watching them.

The fact that the corporal was not really helping the men irked the rider. He asked him why he was not helping the soldiers. The corporal said – “I am the corporal. I give orders.”

The rider didn’t reply. He dismounted his horse, went up to where the soldiers were and helped them lift the wood. With this help, the soldiers were able to complete the task successfully.

Do you want to know who this kind rider was?

It was George Washington and he was then, the Commander-in-chief.

Once he mounted the horse, he approached the corporal and told him this:

“The next time your men need help, send for the commander-in-chief.”

You may achieve success by being authoritative and cynical. However, there is nothing else you will gain.

Being humble will help you open up your mind and learn things that will make you much more powerful.

As per Google’s HR guru, Laszlo Bock, humility can make people become better leaders. They are forever observing and learning and even admitting mistakes at times. It helps them foster an environment of learning, experimentation and creativity. It is humility that makes leaders innovative.

The talent and capability of his Senior Vice President made the CEO and co-founder of Kabam (A massive multiplayer game company), Kevin Chou, give him a standing ovation. Apparently, the SVP was also a playwright and this was at one of his sold-out performances that Kevin happened to attend. This made him believe he was in no position to judge his SVP’s creative output at work. This was the same man who had earlier believed that it was the CEO who seemed to have all the answers.

Deirdre Cerminaro, the systems designer of IDEO, narrates her experience with CEO Tim Brown, when she had an interview with him at Boston. She had travelled all the way from Connecticut to attend this interview.

At the end of the interview, Tim asked her if she knew how to get back home. She said she had taken a cab from the train station; but would be taking the subway for the return trip.

She was expecting Tim to give her directions, when he offered to walk her up to the subway. This took her by surprise; but before she could react, Tim had already grabbed his jacket and summoned the elevator.

Humility in leadership can make you get closer to your employees.  Humility, A Business Quality

While most team leaders tend to suppress and criticize their team members, here is one who made his team members realize how good they were – William A. Hewitt of John Deere.

He was highly praised by his team members when he retired. Seldom does a leader get such high praise from his subordinates. It is all because of his humility that he could build this kind of trust among his people. He made them trust themselves.

Humility is one of the main qualities that Google looks for, while hiring people. This is what Lazlo Bock, the SVP of people operations at Google, had to say while he was addressing his new recruits:

“Your end goal is something that we can do together, so as to problem-solve. I have made my contribution and now I step back.”

To Bock humility is not just about making space for people to contribute. It is about intellectual humility. He says it is not possible to learn if you are not humble.

“The X-factor of great leadership is not personality, it is humility.”

Sounds like a paradox? It sure does. However, if you want to be an effective leader, you will have to see yourself both as an important person and someone who is dispensable.

There are many leaders who are great men and women. However, the trick is not to reveal it. In fact not even to believe in it.

While Julius Caesar rode into Rome, feeling victorious as the crowds roared in admiration, a guard was made to whisper into his ear, this message, repeatedly –

“You are only a man.”

Well, at times, it is important to suspend a leader’s ego so that he starts learning from his inevitable mistakes.

If you want to be a leader whom people can trust, you will have to learn from them grow with them and weather the journey along with them.

Humility does not mean thinking low of yourself. You are only thinking more about others than about yourself.

Genuine humility brings about self-awareness and kindness…

You become more compassionate, candid and charitable…

You will be honest about your strengths and limitations…

You will be open-minded and confident, instead of being obstinate or conceited…

You will be supportive instead of being submissive…

That is not all. Humility can help you in three big ways which can instantly improve your effectiveness, either as a leader or an employer:

Humility helps you listen

When you are humble your world is not only about yourself. You tend to be more receptive and respectful towards others. You start listening to them, thereby making an attempt to nurture your relationship.

It is not just your colleagues, you start listening to your customers as well as the community that you serve. You prosper as a leader, while helping your business reach greater heights of success.

Humility helps you test your assumptions

In most workplaces, employees run by the belief – “the boss is always right.” This belief makes the leaders accept this as a fact and act as authoritative people. Nevertheless, humility can help you go by your instincts and test your assumptions, before finding out whether you are right or not.

It goes on to tell you what is right and what is not, helping you make much more informed decisions.

Humility helps you admit

You will hardly find a human who has not erred. Leaders err too. It is just that they don’t usually admit it and try their best to transfer the blame upon someone else. However, this is not the right way to go, especially if that leader expects to gain the trust of his employees.

Admitting your mistake is not going to display you as a weaker person. It makes you admirable, generous and graceful. You will have to forego your ego along the journey of your personal development as well as business growth.

If you don’t know something, ask for help. Not only will you learn something, you will also be empowering others to shine, thereby building trust.

Humility as a trait, may not be as glamorous as others. However, it is absolutely vital. Thankfully, many businesses have started recognizing the potential of humility.

Have you understood the power of humility yet?

Litmus Branding is a 21-Year-Old branding, advertising, and digital marketing agency. We have clients all across the world in various sectors such as FMCG, construction, automotive, industries, education, and eCommerce, to name a few. At Litmus, we enjoy the process of building brands, every day.

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