Humility: King Solomon, Cyrano, & The House of Gucci.
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An Age Old Story:

In ancient literature, pride, the natural enemy of humility, is the deadliest of vices. The myth of Narcissus is the tragic story of a man who was so self-absorbed, he forsook the love of others and became mired in love of self. The Chinese word for pride is 骄傲 (jiao’ao). It is a compound word rich in imagery of a tall wealthy person on a high horse, with “ten thousand” people below. Lest this become a temptation for us, let’s not forget that in Hebrew texts, it was pride that overran Lucifer. “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.”

Yes, pride has plagued society since the dawn of time, and it continues to manipulate the hearts of us all today – even when we are acutely aware of its poison.  Many of us have personally witnessed the effects of pride. We have seen how, as an individual starts to gain success, a failure to keep ego in check eventually results in an attitude of invincibility. However great the ascent, we begin to perceive the effects of pride cracking the foundation that led to success. As seen through the House of Gucci (or any corporate, political, or personal crash) – the absence of humility leads to damaging results.

“Patrizia was humiliated because Maurizio found another woman. Something snapped in her. Maybe it was a blow to her narcissism.”

– Giuseppina “Pina” Auriemma (Recounting the House of Gucci story)

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

– King Solomon (940 BC)

“I loved my pride.”

– Cyrano (His last words to his love, Roxanne)

The Impact of Pride:

There are many more than three sub-effects of pride, but these are the main symptoms and the results are always disastrous. Unfortunately, the cover of Forbes can be a warning on what pride can bring for any of us who seek to lead others.

  1. It blinds our self-perception: The truth is, pride just doesn’t look that good when you are wearing it. Pride blinds our perception of ourselves, and so while it is immediately distasteful to others, we are unaware of our own countenance and normally think we are pretty cool.  
  2. It hinders meaningful connection: Pride makes it very difficult to connect with others because it covers up our true self. When we are full of pride, we are unwilling to allow others to see our unique nature. When people sense someone is being fake or haughty, they are immediately repulsed.
  3. It skews our view of reality and risk: Our pride makes it impossible to have an accurate understanding of risk. This is why so many successful people make a career ending decision that seems so simple from an outsider’s perspective.

Let’s now shift from the negatives of pride to the virtues of humility.

The Humble Leader:

When reading the negative effects of pride, it is easy to see why humility and leadership go hand in hand. As John Maxwell says, “The true measure of leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” Whereas pride inhibits relationships, humility grows them, and as relationships grow, influence grows. Here is why:

1) Humility builds relationships.

When we approach a relationship with humility, it opens the other person up to us. We are able to show them it is safe to let their guard down by letting ours down first and being transparent. This is what authentic or whole hearted leadership looks like.

2) Humility results in better ideas & outcomes.

When a person feels safe with us, they are more willing to express their ideas openly. Furthermore, our humility allows us to accept the best ideas regardless of their source. This creates a culture where the leader acts as a facilitator of ideas and does not have to be the sole source of innovation. This results in better ideas overall and an advantage over the competition.

3)Humility allows for meaningful course corrections.

Humility allows us to give and receive feedback. As a leader, we must be able to receive feedback from others. This helps keep our perspective in check ensuring we cross reference our own thoughts with input from others. This is akin to device calibration. In giving feedback to others, we know that our interpretation of the situation may have been incorrect or only have part of the story. This cause us to take proceed in a way that does not damage the relationship. If we are correct, our demonstrated history of humility will help lead others in taking our feedback with the same openness.

History and a priori reasoning alike demonstrate the necessity of humility for long term, sustainable, leadership effectiveness. Humility, along with integrity, is a foundational block of TSOR’s character based leadership.

A warning: At no point should we believe that humility means a leader should operate without courage, but should act with courage in humility. “Humility is not thinking less of your self, it’s thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis

Let’s rise above and lead.


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