Do You Have the Confidence To Be Humble?

As I stepped out for my long run on Sunday, I tried to remember to start slowly. As the great ultra-runner, Dean Karnazes says, “Start slowly, then slow down from there.” 

I ran slowly past the high school where I taught for over 30 years. The sign out front welcomed students back and told them they had been missed.

Ah, yes. They have been missed, to be sure.

My mind wandered once again to some of the students I have known.

As teenagers, many students place a priority on fitting in, on becoming part of a social group. For some students, the struggle to fit in was all-consuming, while some students made being a natural leader seem effortless.

I remember one young man, in particular, Matt. Students naturally looked up to Matt. He was captain of the Quiz Bowl team I coached and an excellent student, bright and inquisitive. 

Matt was the epitome of quiet confidence. He was able to take suggestions from his teammates and quickly synthesize the team’s best response. He showed grace under pressure, always calm, never flustered.

I think, however, what made Matt a good captain was his ability to get everyone on the team involved, to make them feel appreciated.

I tried to consider the characteristics that made students good leaders. The first trait that came to mind was, coincidentally, my word for this year, humility.

Students who were natural leaders were curious, and therefore, teachable. They listened to others before consolidating their responses, they drew other students in and made them feel valued and listened to, and they were determined to find solutions for problems. 

They didn’t give up easily or blame others for a poor outcome. They readily accepted responsibility for their actions. 

They were humble.

Research shows humble leaders are the most effective, developing coalitions and making strategic allies by enhancing beneficial relationships.

So, why do we tend to choose leaders who are not humble?

Time after time, we choose the extroverts, the flamboyant, the self-absorbed. These leaders have only their own best interests at heart, not those of their followers. They are often incompetent, irresponsible, and blinded by their own hubris.

Most religions encourage their adherents to adopt a humble attitude. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves,” Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians.

The Christian writer C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Muslims prostrate themselves when they pray to embody their humble perspective toward God.

Humility is one of the most valued traits in Judaism and pride one of the worst sins. In the Jewish tradition, the greater the man’s stature, the more humble he is likely to be.

Buddhists consider humility the result of enlightenment and believe an open mind begins with humility.

If humility is so beneficial, then why are so many leaders in business, finance, and politics such arrogant jerks?

It may have something to do with the perception that humility is associated with weakness or lack of ambition. Braggarts tend to draw a lot of attention to themselves and their accomplishments. Humble leaders don’t feel the need to do that.

There may be a disconnect, then, between perception and reality. Brash, obnoxious bullies get the attention, but modest leaders get results. Conceit and self-importance may command notice, but humility makes things happen.

For effective teachers, the first order of business each year is to demonstrate to their students that everyone in the classroom is on the same “team”, that together students and teachers will work toward success, and that everyone in the class is important and needs to contribute.

A battle for “control” between teachers and students every school day would make life miserable for both. Successful teachers must exhibit humility.

Good leaders know this.

Matt learned it early in life.

He was confident enough to admit he didn’t have all the answers, that he needed his teammates’ contributions for everyone to win. 

And together, they usually got it right.

 

 

You can find the places I link up here.

68 comments

  1. Laurie this is a wonderful post and so true. Excellent leaders must be humble – willing to accept criticism or suggestions so that they can find solutions – and count on their “team” to help. Humility is a sign of strength, not weakness.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “If humility is so beneficial, then why are so many leaders in business, finance, and politics such arrogant jerks?” I want to say this quote made me laugh, but in truth it made me snicker. I especially love the quote from C.S.Lewis and used it earlier in the year in a sermon. I also love and appreciate the fact that you drew on other faith traditions. I am currently listening to an audio book by Roland Merullo,’Dinner with Buddha” and it is chock full of wisdom and amazing writing. Is it possible that we as a culture fail to value humility and so do not elect leaders with the capacity for humility because it is interpreted as a lack of strength? Thanks for this post. Blessigns, for the week. Michele

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So true Laurie…I notice this too. Even in team sports, we often applaud the team member who shows their owns skills off the most, rather than the one who uses their skills to benefit the whole team most.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Laurie – I’ve been listening to a lot of Tim Keller’s sermon podcasts over the last several months and he uses this CS Lewis quote in one of them. He’s a big CS Lewis fan and often shares thoughts like this that resonate with my soul. It’s such a small quote, but has so much depth to it – if only we could all apply it to our lives!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We always need to invite the thoughts of others into our realm if we choose to be a servant leader. Jesus is, and always will be, our perfect example when it comes to listening to others, and hearing them out in love. I’m amazed and heartened by Matt’s mature knowledge and understanding when nurturing a team. May we all take heart in that lesson.
    Blessings, Laurie!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s an interesting concept. The most effective leaders I’ve worked for – or admired – have been the ones who stand back and draw you in almost before you know you’ve been drawn in. They’re the ones who are interested, who listen, who are open to new ideas and who are, yes, humble.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So true. We are so easily seduced by bloated confidence, false charisma, and blatant arrogance. All are inversely correlated with humility.

    I love that quote by C.S. Lewis! I have to remember that one.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Humility may be one of the most important values we can ever emulate. And one of the hardest. 😦 I know I need far more of it than I have. Pride is so insidious in our human nature in general, but it seems especially prevalent in our western culture. Thanks for telling us about Matt. I agree: “Successful teachers must exhibit humility.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Humility is one of the character traits God values most. And that quote by C.S. Lewis? I love it. It’s such an apt definition of humility. I’m enjoying reading about some of your students. You taught some pretty special young men and women. 🙂 Thank you for the reminder that one of the best traits of a true leader is humility and seeing how others can contribute. Great post, Laurie!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is one of the questions my husband and I discuss in regards to certain personalities being promoted in the workplace…and how it’s rewarded time and time again. And while I did see it happen in academia, Reward happens slightly differently in that setting than in a corporate setting, thankfully. I find that in business and politics, humility is one of the most admirable traits. And I heard it in Andrew Cuomo when he gave the people of New York all the credit for flattening their curve. The people. Not his leadership. Not his administration.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Laurie,
    I’ve always loved the quote by C.S. Lewis. I never thought I had an issue with “pride” because I associated it only with arogance. Pride manifests itself in so many insidious ways. Any time I go to judge someone’s beliefs or actions, I am thinking more of myself and it’s a red flag that I need to humble myself. I think we’d all do well to step back and have a heaping helping of humble pie. God loves a humble and contrite heart…
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read a lot of C.S. Lewis in my time but that is one quote I didn’t remember. I just came across it recently. I love your thoughts on pride. I need to watch that in myself too. Thank you for sharing that with me.

      Like

  12. I kind of fell in love with the works of CS Lewis from the movie based on his life with Joy, Shadowlands. It was a beautiful, sad story of love. That quote is beautiful. Thank you the reminder about humility. sigh. Could all political leaders please LISTEN more and TALK less… sorry, had to say it.

    Thanks for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week the optional prompt is 40/51 Share Your Snaps #8 5.10.2020 Hope to see you there too. Denyse

    Liked by 2 people

    • I used to read a lot of C.S. Lewis, but I haven’t read any of his work for a while. I loved the story of how his love for his wife Joy changed his life and his views. I think it softened him and rounded off his sharp edges, which was a good thing. Thank you for hosting. Hope to see you next week.

      Like

  13. Great post. Love CSU’s Lewis. Have you read Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t stop Talking by Susan Cain. Both humility and quiet are under appreciated. If there is ever a time to embrace humility and quiet, it’s on a run. Stay well.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Humility is really a springboard for growth and developing other important characteristics. It allows us to have an open heart to other people and ideas. I agree that sometimes it’s seen as a weakness though. You’ve said so many insightful things here. Thanks for sharing. I’m visiting today from the Purposeful Faith link up. Have a great day Laurie!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I like this C.S. Lewis quote Laurie and you have hit the nail on the head with your analysis of what we want in our leaders, be they esteemed finance, business or medical professionals, or most especially, our political leaders. You wrote this before last night’s debate – I won’t discuss politics here or anywhere and keep my views to myself (or used to until recently), as I’m not a citizen of this nation, so I don’t believe I’ve earned that right to comment since I cannot vote, but making the word “humility” for the rest of this year for some people could be an excellent choice as to bringing them down a peg or two.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I love that C.S. Lewis quote, Laurie. I agree that the most effective leaders are those who put the needs of others ahead of their own and lead with gentle grace, rather than arrogance and bravado. They can still have big personalities, just not take themselves too seriously (back to Lewis again). Matt sounds like one of those students who makes it fun for a teacher to go to work!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Beautiful post…
    Yes…confidence often wins over competence when a leader is being chosen…the flamboyance is what most people look for in a leader and then suffer…humility is what ultimately matters…thars what makes a mind practical…
    Regards

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I do wish the humble hurry up and inherit the earth, before the arrogant wreck it past repair. I may sound cynical, but the stakes are so high right now that it’s got me a bit on edge, I must confess. But I do believe there’s good reason for hope!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s