On Humility

 “ There is nothing noble about being superior to your fellow man,true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

Ernest Hemingway

“ Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.”

Miyamoto Musashi – The Book of Five Rings

In a position of authority, one necessarily adopts a divergent operating perspective from that of his associates. Measures of professional success are highly motivational, but in time, may incite reluctance to accept criticism or to entertain exogenous concepts. Although this attitude may often serve as a valuable defense mechanism, its detriments are costly. A self-confident leader acts decisively, inoculating herself and her company from the ramifications of wasted time and cautiously allocating resources. It is, however, critical to ensure that such confidence does not erode the cohesion of the team. Such deterioration is deftly remedied by two potent virtues repeatedly recognized by Dr. Inamori.

Humility and open-mindedness are examined as isolated attributes within the bindings of our philosophical texts, but the two are inexorably interwoven. Humility itself is the essential precondition for open-mindedness. From humility arises the self-criticism necessary to realize that one person’s prowess, however formidable, cannot match the collective effort of a community of talented and ambitious individuals. Through ardent provision of open communication, perspective may be acquired throughout the chain of command. A leader unencumbered by conceit is able to foster creativity in his subordinates and employ the cumulative sum of mental energy toward the unanimous objective: success.

Humility is an easy virtue to espouse, but perhaps the most difficult to exemplify. A leader at any level must never displace blame, but rather seize responsibility for any shortcoming within her sphere of influence. Maximizing personal responsibility in the face of failure offers two significant advantages. First, and contrary to treating a mistake as though its origins are entirely mysterious, owning an oversight to its full extent allows concerted anticipation and ultimate mitigation of similar future errors. Personal growth is stunted and valuable insight squandered when missteps are dismissively accredited to factors beyond our control. Second, admission of one’s own fallibility demonstrates great maturity, courage and intellectual honesty. An ego-driven leader can always be relied upon to suppress the effectiveness of his team, but a superior who eschews vanity and embraces modesty will invariably energize his colleagues and inspire selfless action. The respect of one’s associates is simultaneously the most valuable and least recognized asset one can endeavor to gain.

The behavior of the leader sets the tone for the entire organization. If arrogance and inflexibility are demonstrated at the top, these venomous characteristics will flow ever downward in a spiral of discord and ineffectiveness. The confluence of humility and open-mindedness is the antidote. It is prudent to point out that, while the reach may not be as vast, these concepts are effective at every level of the organization. Embodiment of the aforementioned virtues distinguishes rare quality to peers, subordinates and superiors alike.

Victory achieved without unwavering commitment to these principles is circumstantial, artificial, illusory, and by its nature, unsustainable. It is imperative to the success of our company that we treat our co-workers with dignity and be receptive to new ideas wherever they emerge. Our goals are aligned. Our objective unified. With this perspective, success is firmly within our reach.

10 Replies to “On Humility”

  1. With every little thing which appears to be building throughout this particular subject material, your viewpoints are generally quite refreshing. However, I appologize, because I do not give credence to your entire strategy, all be it radical none the less. It looks to everyone that your comments are actually not totally rationalized and in fact you are yourself not really fully convinced of your argument. In any case I did take pleasure in examining it.

    1. I do appreciate your feedback, however I’m curious what it is in my writing that gives the impression that I’m not convinced of my own argument. You may be onto something, but I must say I feel like I generally agree with myself.

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