Recently, the author of The Extraordinary Power of Leader Humility, Marilyn Gist, presented a guided discussion on how leaders create thriving organizations and achieve great results. I found it simply fascinating, especially since her research is grounded in her own experiences in corporate America.
Marilyn has extensively studied why leader humility is the essential foundation of all healthy organizations and validated her work with interviews of prominent CEOs of companies ranging from the Mayo Clinic and Ford to Starbucks and Costco. Below are a few of my top takeaways and key concepts from the enlightening discussion:
- Humility is a tendency to feel deep regard for others’ dignity.
- Leadership, at its core, involves working together with other people in order to accomplish more than we could accomplish by ourselves. And essential to that working relationship is respect for the dignity of the other person, we can be strong, disagree on ideas, that we have to be able to relate to the other person in a way that doesn’t damage their dignity.
- Leader humility embraces a level of confidence that you can lead other people and that you have a good handle on your own strengths and your weaknesses.
- There’s a confidence of humility sweet spot between meekness and arrogance. Leader humility doesn’t mean being meek. You can have a spine of steel, you can set high standards, you can make the tough decisions that are either people-based or analytical and still have humility. But what humility does though, is support the other person’s sense of self-worth or dignity. It shouldn’t stray into arrogance or this inflated sense of our own importance.
Two levels of dignity:
1. Basic foundation:
- How Western societies and probably most societies think of life itself as being sacred.
- Our laws here support that (Thou shalt not kill, the right to choose your life, and when to handle it if you have a terminal illness).
2. Personal humility:
- Ego balance: A balance between self and others integrity.
- Robust integrity: Having strong moral principles.
- Generous inclusion: Involving others in the early phase of discussion.
“The notion of personal dignity is that we all have this backpack of stuff. Sometimes we’re aware of what’s in it. Sometimes we’re not but this backpack of things that go into our sense of self-worth and whatever somebody says depends on it when they criticize those aspects of us. Our dignity takes a hit. It’s important to think about every story single person you interact with as having that backpack. You don’t necessarily know what’s in it, but they’ve got one and it’s full of things about them–some positive and some negative.” – Marilyn Gist
We all have a right to self-worth and a need for self-worth. Learning to honor learning to respect the things that go into another person’s sense of dignity are important concepts of leader humility.