On Humility. Are You Humble?

Being humble is about actions, not attitude

Everyone agrees that leaders need a dose of humility,

but too many people seem to believe that humility starts with inner thoughts,

not outward behaviors, writes Wally Bock.

“If you’re a leader, everything you do sends a message.

If you want to act humble you have to choose your actions carefully,” Bock writes.

Don’t worry about being humble, just do it

Don’t worry about being humble, just do it

05 May 2016 |

The question isn’t “Should I be humble?” The question is “How do I do it?”

Everyone from assorted saints to assorted leadership gurus seems to agree that humility is a good thing. But there’s not much advice on how you become humble.

If you want to be humble, act humble.

Advice to “be humble” isn’t helpful. And a lot of advice tells us to change our thinking and if we do that, we will change our action. But there’s a better way to become humble. Herminia Ibarra describes why in her excellent book, Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader.

“Aristotle observed that people become virtuous by acting virtuous: if you do good, you’ll be good. His insight has been confirmed in a wealth of social psychology research showing that people change their minds by first changing their behavior. Simply put, change happens from the outside in, not from the inside out.”

The way we get to be humble is to act humble.

OK, what does it mean to “act humble?”

When you act humble you act like every other person and their work is important. Costco founder Jim Sinegal was a fine a corporate example you can find. When Jena McGregor wrote about him in the Washington Post, she mentioned that Sinegal’s compensation package was about a third of the average big company CEO. Then she described how he worked.

“His office is a tiny alcove without a door; the furnishings are as fancy as folding chairs. When a reporter visits the headquarters, which does not have any public relations handlers on staff, Sinegal comes out to the reception desk himself. He also answers his own phone (“Sinegal!”).”

If you’re in a leadership role, pay attention to the trappings of your job. Be suspicious of things that shout, “I’m more important than you are!”

A few years ago, I watched the CEO of a major retailer visit a local store. The regional manager rented two SUVs to pick up the CEO and other people from the home office at the airport. When the CEO arrived at the store he swept in with his staff and started making notes. There was very little conversation with the people who worked in the store. After a huddled conversation with the store manager, the CEO and his entourage climbed back in the SUVs so they would not be late for their reservations at a fine local restaurant.

If you’re a leader, everything you do sends a message. If you want to act humble you have to choose your actions carefully.

Where to start

There are many possible starting points when you begin trying to act humble Anything that moves you in the right direction will work. But there is one question you can ask to help you evaluate the way you treat the people around you.

The best way to show that you value others is to give them time and attention. My friend Mike Henry suggests a question you can ask yourself often that cuts through the clutter and BS.

“How do you behave when you’re interrupted?”

I read this in a piece of writing that Mike shared with me. Since then I’ve been using it to evaluate whether I’m really as open and helpful as I think I am. The answers are both helpful and disconcerting.

They’re helpful because it’s easy for me to be attentive and helpful when the work day is over. The real test comes when I’m working.

They’re disconcerting because I’m discovering that my actions really don’t send the message I want. My facial expression and tone of voice say “My time is important, so make this quick.” Sometimes I check my phone when the other person is talking.

I’m working on getting better. I’m developing the practice of asking the other person to wait while I save any files and turn away from my computer. Then I can give them my full attention. I’ve also developed a way to let people know that I’m deep in writing and should only be interrupted for emergencies.

The cautionary experience of Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin listed “Humility” as one of the thirteen virtues he wanted to attain. It wasn’t on his original list of virtues, but he added it after friends noted that his humility could use some work. Years later, he confided in his Autobiography that:

“I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it.”

That could be me, too. It could be you.

Bottom Line

If you want to reap the benefits of humility you have to act humble. Try to act in ways that send the “I respect you” message. Test yourself by answering the question: “How do I behave when I’m interrupted?”

Some Quotes on Humility

Here are some quotes on humility that I’ve found helpful.

“Humility is the awareness that there’s a lot you don’t know and that a lot of what you think you know is distorted or wrong.” ~ David Brooks

“As an internal management value, humility means that you have an accurate self-image. You know your strengths and you know your challenges. You recognize your internal worth and you also recognize and respect the dignity and worth of every human being.” ~ David Dye and Karin Hurt

“Humility is the only way to resolve the conflicts and contradictions of leadership. You can avoid excessive pride only if you recognize that you’re human and need the help of others.” ~ James Kouzes and Barry Posner

“My own conviction is that every leader should have enough humility to accept, publicly, the responsibility for the mistakes of the subordinates he has himself selected and, likewise, to give them credit, publicly, for their triumphs.” ~ Dwight Eisenhower

“I feel that humility is the foundation of servant leadership. It means that you put others first, above yourself on a consistent basis. It means that you remove the status and personal gains from what you do as a leader, and begin to look primarily at what you accomplish in the lives of those you work with.” ~ Mark Deterding

Thanks for the inspiration

This subject has been bouncing around in my head for months but the inspiration to write about humility now was ignited by Ed Batista’s excellent post, “Humility.

– See more at: http://www.threestarleadership.com/leadership/dont-worry-about-becoming-humble-just-do-it#sthash.hk8HXoAa.dpuf

#DoYouHumble 🙂




Developing a Humble Attitude

A mother who attended a recent presentation during which I described the differences between high self-esteem and humility writes asking “What should my husband and I be doing to help our children develop humble hearts?”

Before I answer her question, I need to point out two things: First, humility was the cultural ideal up until the late 1960s, at which point self-esteem theory began to hold sway. Second, the research is clear that people who possess high self-esteem do not have good emotional coping skills, are highly prone to regular episodes of depression, and tend toward sociopathy. And that’s just the short list. For more on that, Google the work of researchers Roy Baumeister and Jean Twenge.

People who know nothing of the research, when I ask if they’d rather live next door to a person with high self-esteem or a person who is humble and modest, answer the latter. No one given that choice has ever chosen the former, proving my general contention that common-sense and social science research generally line up.

A good number of people equate humility and modesty with shyness, but that’s an error. Humility is simply an attitude of service. The humble person looks for opportunities to be of service to others, from opening doors to volunteering in charitable activities. A person with high self-esteem, which is an entitlement mentality, walks through the opened door without saying “Thank you.”

I gave the above mom the following five tips for assisting her children toward developing a humble social attitude:

1. Train children to serve by assigning them to unpaid chores in and around the home. It is axiomatic, as our fore-parents used to say, that good citizenship begins in the home. Chores should begin at age 3 and increase steadily from there.
2. Train children to pay attention to the needs of others by teaching proper manners. The social graces consist of small, gentle acts that acknowledge respect for others; thus, the gentleman and gentlewoman.
3. When kids act “full of themselves”-when they brag about their accomplishments for example-let them know that boasting is disrespectful of those who may have tried as hard but did not do as well; that it is an example of bad manners.
4. When a child does well academically, artistically, or athletically, low-key praise is certainly appropriate, but consider coupling it with words that cause the child to begin thinking of ways he can use his gifts to better the lives of others.
5. Be a good role model and mentor of humility. Show your kids what being a good neighbor is all about. Be helpful toward those in need and adversity. Make volunteerism a visible aspect of your life and the life of your family.

Because, to paraphrase the inimitable Forrest Gump, humility is as humility does.


Great leaders don’t need to pull rank

The days when leaders could succeed by pulling rank and asserting their own authority are long gone, writes Frank Sonnenburg.

Today’s best bosses focus on building trusting relationships with their workers, and rely on humility, credibility and integrity to win people over.

“[T]hey’re effective because they’re knowledgeable, admired, trusted, and respected,” Sonnenburg writes.

5 Measures of a Great Leader

By Frank Sonnenburg


By: Burazin/Getty Images

Published 12/24/2014

The world is changing at a blistering pace. In years past, the health of a company was measured by the size of its balance sheet. While that still may be true today, an organization’s competitiveness is clearly determined by its ability to harness the power of intangibles –– often referred to as “soft issues.” The truth is, any organization that wants to achieve excellence must emphasize the importance of intangible factors such as empowering its workforce, communicating in an open and honest manner, building trust among employees, promoting continuous education and the personal and professional growth of its employees, creating a work environment that encourages risk and discourages fear, improving business processes and eliminating waste, nurturing long-term relationships with suppliers and customers, working hard to develop an impeccable reputation, living according to sound business ethics, and unifying the organization around a mission and shared values.

In order to address our changing times, the leadership function is also going through a metamorphosis. In the past, all-knowing leaders resided in their ivory tower. When they spoke, their subjects faithfully obeyed their commands. Indirectly, these “rulers” implied “I am the boss,” “I know best,” and “I am in control. I will lead you to the Promised Land, but I will reward you along the way.” So, they used the carrot and stick and treated the minions with kindness as motivation. The central premise was “We call the shots and you implement them.” Today, if you want to attract and retain top talent, you have to offer employees more. Employees want to make a meaningful contribution, be self-fulfilled, and embrace the organization’s values and goals.

For today’s employee, being part of something special and making a difference in the world is much more important than the rewards sought by yesterday’s “me” generation. Employees want to work for an organization they can feel proud of — one that contributes back to society; an organization that has values and viewpoints compatible with their own; an organization that is oriented toward the long haul, working toward the prevention of ills, not just curing the symptoms; an organization that cares about morals and ethics and doing what is in the best interests of its customers; an organization that doesn’t dominate their life but rather allows them ample time to spend with their families. Employees want this because they recognize that such an organization will also care about them.

Today, great leaders have no need to pull rank or resort to command and control to get results. Instead, they’re effective because they’re knowledgeable, admired, trusted, and respected. This helps them secure buy-in automatically, without requiring egregious rules or strong oversight designed to forcecompliance. Great leaders hire great people, train them well, inspire them, and then get out of their way.

Vision. Great leaders are visionaries with a “can-do” attitude. They take on the impossible, while their fearful colleagues look for the exits. In the process, great leaders confront issues and obstacles head-on and make decisions that position their organizations successfully for the future. This means that their decisions won’t always be popular, but they will be considered deliberate and fair; short-term results won’t always be stellar, but long-term investments will secure a brighter future. These leaders won’t always be loved, but they will be trusted and respected.

Conviction. Great leaders have a backbone. They make every effort to gather information, weigh alternatives, secure buy-in from their constituents, and determine the best course of action. Great leaders focus precious resources in areas that provide the greatest opportunity rather than trying to please everyone or making arbitrary, across-the-board decisions.

Humility. Great leaders do what’s right — period. Great leaders recognize that their stance represents something much larger than the whim of any one individual –– as such, they put their egos and self-interests on hold. Great leaders do what’s in the organization’s best interest rather than trying to win a popularity contest, playing politics, or advancing their own private agenda.

Integrity. Great leaders operate with integrity at all times; they are passionate about protecting their personal integrity and the reputation of their organization. They understand that trust takes a long time to develop, but can be lost in the blink of an eye. Great leaders know that instilling a strong culture and promoting ethical core values are instrumental measures for success. In fact, in today’s turbulent times, everything is subject to change except an organization’s core values.

Credibility. Great leaders maintain a balance between short-term performance and building a better future. Great leaders know that short-term wins enable leaders to build trust, instill confidence, and maintain momentum. This provides them with enough credibility to make strategic investments and tackle the long-term challenges that ensure success. Great leaders understand the importance of motivating others to accept personal sacrifice to benefit others.

The bottom line is that great leaders win the support of their constituents by earning their trust and respect. Great leaders achieve success by setting high standards, remaining true to their beliefs and values, and listening to their conscience. They never stop trying until they do themselves proud. Great leaders encourage teamwork, promote win-win relationships, and demand everyone’s best effort. The truth is, it doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, work on the top floor or in the basement, everyone earns trust and respect the same way. You can’t require it or demand it. You can’t cut deals or take shortcuts. You can’t buy it or even place a price tag on it. And that’s because earning trust and respect is priceless. Great leaders do it every day!

Reblogged from: money.com

About the author:

Frank Sonnenburg is an award-winning author. He has written five books and over 300 articles. Frank was recently named one of “America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders” and nominated as one of “America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts.” Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world. Additionally, FrankSonnenbergOnline was named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs.” Frank’s new book, Follow Your Conscience, is now available.

A Grateful Child

A Five-Point Plan for Growing a Grateful Child

by John Rosemond

1. Do not give your child very much beyond basic necessities and basic comforts; in which case he will be grateful for what he does get. The fact is that the more a child gets, the more he expects to continue getting, and the less grateful he is for anything you give him.

2. Assign your child to a daily routine of chores in and around the home, which he does not for money but simply because he is a competent member of the family. In case I need to make this clearer: Do not pay for chores. When they are paid for, the child is likely to believe that if he doesn’t need money at some point in time, he doesn’t have to do his chores.

3. Give your child an allowance, but in so doing, assign a certain area or area of fiscal responsibility to him. That forces him to begin budgeting and to begin developing an appreciation for the value of a dollar. Allowances given without responsibility teach children that money grows on trees (or in dad’s wallet or mom’s purse).

4. Before every family meal, give thanks to God for all the blessings he has conferred upon your family.

5. Do not celebrate your children such that they know they are being celebrated. Why? Because the child who is celebrated develops a prideful attitude. In that regard, it is helpful to remember the words of Henry Ward Beecher (1813 – 1887):

“A proud man is seldom a grateful man; for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.”

Humility goes a long way in this life.

©2014 John K. Rosemond

How Abraham Lincoln inspires us to lead with powerful humility


Seven score and 10 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln delivered the greatest speech in American history. Standing on the bloodied battlefield of Gettysburg, Lincoln urged the fractured nation to dedicate itself to the “unfinished work” of the battle. In only 10 sentences—272 words in all—he made clear the far-reaching implications of the Civil War: “that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Simply claiming to be for the people does not make a government democratic. As Lincoln taught us in his Gettysburg Address, it must also be of and by these people.

Seven score and 10 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln delivered the greatest speech in American history. Standing on the bloodied battlefield of Gettysburg, Lincoln urged the fractured nation to dedicate itself to the “unfinished work” of the battle. In only 10 sentences—272 words in all—he made clear the far-reaching implications of the Civil War: “that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Simply claiming to be for the people does not make a government democratic. As Lincoln taught us in his Gettysburg Address, it must also be of and by these people.

Reblogged from Marcus Brotherton’s Inspiring presidents series

Today, we’d say Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) had a disadvantaged childhood, a dysfunctional family and a deprived school experience.

He found ways around these issues to become the 16th president of the United States, called by many the greatest president ever. He led a troubled country through four years of the hell of civil war to become a strong and compassionate nation.

Lincoln used his childhood problems as stepping stones to reach his potential. Maybe we think it couldn’t happen in today’s complicated world: A man pulling himself up, self educating and rising to the top.

But the lights that guided Lincoln are still around. We may be surprised if we apply them to our own lives.

  1. 1.     Honesty

We know him best as Honest Abe, and are inspired by pictures of him studying by firelight in the log cabin where he grew up. Born in Kentucky, he moved with his family to Indiana to wrestle a living out of trees and weeds. Abe and his sister Sally slept on corn husk beds. A school opened nine miles away when Abe was seven, and his mother insisted the children attend. They had to walk. This huge commitment started Abe’s love of learning.

His mother died when he was nine, and his father was apparently overwhelmed by the need to hunt for game daily and manage the farm and home. The father returned to Kentucky to find a new wife. The children, left alone, ate dried berries that their mother had stored away. A neighbour reported they were skinny, filthy and the house deplorable. The children thought they’d been abandoned, but six months after he left their father returned with a new wife and her three children. Abe ran to her and buried his face in her skirt.

One of his step-mother’s best gifts to Abe was the six books she brought, including Pilgrim’s Progress, the Bible and Aesop’s Fables. Another school opened about a mile away and Abe got three more months of schooling, adding up to about a year.

His relationship with his father was rocky, but he treasured his step-mother. At age 22, Abe moved to New Salem, Illinois.

One of my favorite stories is that of Lincoln working as a young clerk in a general store. Whoever told it to me did the telling well, for I can still hear the creak of the floorboards and smell the pickle barrel. At the end of a long day, Abe counted his earnings and realized he had shortchanged a customer by a couple of pennies. How tempting it must have been to pocket the extra pennies. Or at least to lock the store, go home to dinner, and resolve to return the money the next time the customer came in. But neither dishonesty nor delay won. The tired young clerk walked many miles to return the pennies to the customer that same day.

Later in his law practice on the Wabash Circuit, Lincoln was noted for honesty. In one case a witness lied under oath, clearing Abe’s client. But Abe asked that the testimony be stricken, saying, “I do not wish to win in this way.”

What would this kind of scrupulous honesty look like in our lives today? How would it change our business relationships? Our income tax returns?

  1. 2.    Humility

Perhaps his lack of formal schooling made Lincoln a humble man. Certainly he worked hard to overcome, teaching himself a broad general education and law.

Deep losses contributed to his humble outlook. He experimented in business, got some military experience, practiced law, and then ventured into politics. He lost his first bid for the Illinois General Assembly. He later served four terms in the Illinois House of Representatives.

In 1846 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. After supporting General Zachary Taylor for president, Lincoln had hoped to be appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office, but the job went to a rival. Without bitterness, Lincoln returned to his law practice.

After a series of debates in 1858 in which Lincoln opposed the expansion of slavery, he lost the U.S. Senate race to Stephen Douglas, his archrival. But Abe didn’t quit, and in 1860 he won the presidency. Time to overthrow humility? Lincoln knew the inherent dangers of power, saying,

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

There would be no honeymoon. Immediately seven states left the union to form the Confederacy, and Civil War broke out. He led the nation through this anguished time, and during the worst of the darkness issued that great document, the Emancipation Proclamation.

Lincoln’s personal losses were grievous. His first love, Ann Rutledge, died before they could become formally engaged. He nearly married Mary Owens, but both had second thoughts and ended the courtship. In 1842 he married Mary Todd, after an off-again-on-again courtship.

The couple had four sons. Edward died at age four; Willie at age 12, and Tad at age 18. Only Robert survived to have children of his own. The death of their sons had profound impact on Mary and Abe. He suffered from melancholy, now referred to as clinical depression, much of his life.

But for Abe, rather than hold him back, his losses made him a compassionate man who could put himself into another’s shoes.

What difference would it make in our lives if we met our losses with humility?

  1. 3.    Simplicity

We’ve all known a person who can cut to the essentials. In a group discussion, when ideas are tossed about like unruly ocean waves, this person first listens, then speaks a few words that cut to the heart of the matter, outline it clearly and offer simple solutions.

Abraham Lincoln was that type of man.

Nowhere is that more evident than at Gettysburg. Edward Everett delivered a two-hour oration, customary in that day, which was eloquent and profound. Lincoln had been asked to say a few words, which he composed apparently on the train trip to Gettysburg. In 10 sentences he summarized the wrenching war and inspired a nation for ages to come.

Spoken on Nov. 19, 1863 at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a few months after the Union had defeated Confederate armies at the site, the speech defined the war as a struggle not just for the Union but to end slavery.

For 200 years school children have been memorizing: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal . . . . “

In those few words, he cut through the rhetoric and the anguish.

Can we define our national struggles today in a few sentences? Can you cut to the heart of your personal struggles and state them simply?

Lincoln was wrong about one thing. He said, “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here.”

Sorry, Mr. Lincoln, but we’re still noting and remembering what you said, with thoughtfulness and gratitude.


Honesty, humility, simplicity—qualities it’s easy to bypass in today’s fast-paced world. How do these qualities fit into your life today?

– See more at: http://www.marcusbrotherton.com/abraham-lincoln-inspires-us-lead-powerful-humility/#sthash.bI2HtRLF.dpuf


What Is Humility? – Charles H. Spurgeon


Now let us briefly enquire, in the first place, what is humility?

The best definition I have ever met with is, “to think rightly of ourselves.” Humility is to make a right estimate of one’s self.

It is no humility for a man to think less of himself than he ought, though it might rather puzzle him to do that. Some persons, when they know they can do a thing, tell you they cannot; but you do not call that humility? A man is asked to take part in some meeting. “No,” he says, “I have no ability;” yet, if you were to say so yourself, he would be offended at you.

It is not humility for a man to stand up and depreciate himself and say he cannot do this, that, or the other, when he knows that he is lying. If God gives a man a talent, do you think the man does not know it? If a man has ten talents he has no right to be dishonest to his Maker, and to say, “Lord, you have only give me five.” It is not humility to underrate yourself.

Humility is to think of yourself, if you can, as God thinks of you. It is to feel that if we have talents, God has given them to us, and let it be seen that, like freight in a vessel, they tend to sink us low. The more we have, the lower we ought to lie.

Humility is not to say, “I have not this gift,” but it is to say, “I have the gift, and I must use it for my Master’s glory. I must never seek any honor for myself, for what have I that I have not received?” But, beloved, humility is to feel ourselves lost, ruined, and undone. To be killed by the same hand which, afterwards, makes us alive, to be ground to pieces as to our own doings and willings, to know and trust in none but Jesus, to be brought to feel and sing—

“Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling.”

Humility is to feel that we have no power of ourselves, but that it all comes from God. Humility is to lean on our beloved, to believe that he has trodden the winepress alone, to lie on his bosom and slumber sweetly there, to exalt him, and think less than nothing of ourselves. It is in fact, to annihilate self, and to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ as all in all.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon Pride and Humility,
delivered on August 17, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark

What do you have, until you realize that you have it, and then you don’t have it?

Humility does not mean you think less of yourself. It means you think of yourself less. – Ken Blanchard

“To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness.” ~Benjamin Franklin

* Jesus demonstrated it…dads need to do it.

Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 18:4
Jesus also reminds us: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Because of our human nature, humility is an extremely slippery virtue. In the act of thinking we have it, we prove to ourselves we don’t. Once a person thinks he is humble, it’s very difficult to be humble!