The Lost Virtue
“Humility leads to strength and not to weakness. It is the highest form of self-respect to admit mistakes and to make amends for them.” – John J. McCloy
In my 20+ years working with hundreds of leaders, I’ve observed the following characteristics of the most effective leaders:
1. Impeccable integrity
2. Passion for what they do
3. Compassion for those they serve
Sadly, far too many leaders fall short in the area of humility. With rare exceptions, most managers are so possessed with self-promotion they have little time left to serve those they are supposedly leading. This fact was reinforced recently when I asked several men and women – leaders that I respect – the question, “When you reflect on the leaders that you’ve worked for, how many understand and value the importance of building relationships with their followers.” The answer – less than 30%!
Since the character of leaders is the destiny of organizations, we need more men and women who have the courage to stand for what’s right and not compromise their souls in the name of political correctness. In their passionate search for acceptance, far too many are busy polishing their personalities at the expense of their character. In his enlightening book, How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins shares the five stages of organizational decline. His research has found that the first stage (symptom) of decline is “Hubris Born of Success.” He goes on to state, “Dating back to ancient Greece, the concept of hubris is defined as excessive pride that brings down a hero, or alternatively (to paraphrase classics professor J. Rufus Fears), outrageous arrogance that inflicts suffering upon the innocent.”
What’s the antidote? The answer is found in the following quote from Saint Augustine:
“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”
To reinforce the importance of humility, Parker Palmer, in his book, Let Your Life Speak (a must read!), shares, “I love the fact that the word humus – the decayed vegetable matter that feeds the roots of plants – comes from the same root that gives rise to the word humility. It is a blessed etymology. It helps me understand that the humiliating events of my life, the events that leave “mud on my face” or that “make my name mud,” may create the fertile soil in which something new can grow.”
A closing thought: In my quiet time under majestic Mystic Oak, the 300+ year old tree that has been the source of so much guidance and wisdom, I believe that we can learn from her two purposes – to grow and give back. If we get passionately engaged in something greater than self and commit to those simple acts of daily discipline required to improve ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spirituality, we will live a life of humility and significance.
The Lost Virtue