It’s Hard to be Humble

One of the challenges for leaders as they progress in their career is staying humble while gaining wisdom and experience.  Humility can also be a challenge for those who develop super powers from a deep contemplative practice.  I recently read Siddharta by Herman Hess and was impacted by a passage on maintaining humility as you grow.

Hess says that the wise person or the sage “has nothing over (the rest of us) except one trifle, one tiny little thing: the awareness, the conscious idea, of the unity of all life”.  We are all connected.  We are all equal.  While hierarchy creates structure in an organization, progressive and conscious leaders see themselves as part of a collective team of equals where people simply have different roles.  Servant leaders actually view the org chart upside down, whereby the executive supports everybody else instead of seeing reporting lines.

Hess subtly adds another aspect of humility to this conversation by noting that while humans see themselves as higher beings, “animals are often superior to human beings in their tough, unerring accomplishment of the necessary”.  That made me think.  A beaver doesn’t complain about having to build a dam.  It also doesn’t compare with the dam down the river or overbuild beyond that which is necessary.  The beaver just does the work because it needs to be done.

You need everybody in a company to achieve success.  Humility allows wise leaders to lead whereby everybody feels comfortable sharing their views, market signals are distilled from the front lines, decisions are made transparently and people then do the work that needs to be done even if it is difficult.  This ongoing challenge becomes easier if humility fosters connection to something bigger than yourself.

What might you do to show more humility as a leader?  What impact would that have on those around you?

Be humble.  Just do the work.


(originally posted at

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