The Practical Gift of Humility

A few weeks ago Mary Jo Asmus published a blog post entitled Giving Away Your Gifts.  It served as a reminder, to me at least, that non-tangible assets, when shared, are indeed gifts to those who receive them.

Mary Jo outlined a number of important gifts that leaders can give and then she asked us to think about other qualities that leaders might bring and apply at work.

I offered the gift of humility.

Mary Jo said it was a great gift but asked, “How would you give humility to others?”

Well, that started me thinking.  How indeed?  After all, humility is one of those things that is constantly in competition with the ego.  And, it’s not a quality that comes naturally or easily to human beings either.  In fact, we can’t actually give humility to another person.  Even the idea sounds a bit, well, arrogant doesn’t it?

I suppose I could go off on some esoteric journey about the righteousness of humility (a journey on which I would no doubt find myself alone), but right now, I’m more interested in looking at some of its more practical aspects.

Here are some that come to mind.  Leaders give the gift of humility every time they:

  • Praise others and give credit for work well done, without expectation of sharing in the tangible recognition that may come from it.
  • Give the challenge of new and exciting assignments to those who they feel will get the best result and grow from the experience, even if doing the work themselves would have earned them major bragging rights.
  • Step behind the rest of their team when accolades are being given for great results.
  • Look in the mirror first, when things go wrong.
  • Make the work and the collective effort of the team more important than their own status or image.
  • Express more pride in their teams, the work and their values than in themselves.

Okay, all this sounds tough.  And it is.  It may appear Paradoxical, but I think that to be able to carry off true leadership with humility, we need a healthy sense of self-esteem, because then we can more easily find contentment and pride in allowing others to shine brighter, or more often, than we do.   It is that, that makes it a gift.

Many of you will have heard of Jim Collins. He advocates the combination of humility and will as being present in the most accomplished and effective leaders.

He refers to it as “The Five”, meaning level five leadership and explains it here:

Do we have to be captains of industry to give the gift of humility?  The simple answer is no.  Does it mean that we have to turn into someone like Charles Dickens’ Uriah Heep to be humble? Certainly not.

But, it does take practice and sincerity. I’m still working on it. You?



Filed under Building Relationships, Employee engagement, Leading Teams, Self Knowledge, Uncategorized

7 responses to “The Practical Gift of Humility

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Practical Gift of Humility « You’re Not the Boss of Me --

  2. Pingback: Ego: The Biggest Threat to Employee Engagement « Morale at Work: The Performance Connection

  3. Gwen I really liked this and linked to it in a blog I wrote today on ego and engagement at work:

    I hope you enjoy it!

    best to you, David

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Thank you David! I am in awe of the depth of your research and so glad you found my post useful too!

      And, I agree that an over-inflated sense of self is most certainly an enemy to workplace engagement.

      Many thanks for your comment and the link!


      • Gwyn sorry that I got your name wrong, I had actually corrected it on my blog within 5 minutes or writing, but too late…..!! I’ll get it right from now on. Glad you liked the post I wrote.

        best to you


  4. What great examples of humility in action.

    Perhaps when we can genuinely find joy in the success of others and celebrate it we are experiencing our own sense of humility. I think you are absolutely right that it takes strong self esteem to be humble and give the gift of our humility to others!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Thanks for coming by Susan!

      It’s always a pleasure when you contribute your “two cents worth”! brings the value of the post up to at least four cents! 🙂

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