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Posted on Jun 8, 2018

The Offspring of Humility: A Unique Way to Look at Values

The Offspring of Humility: A Unique Way to Look at Values

“The minute you claim humility, you haven’t got it” – Phil Hodges

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of facilitating numerous leadership development workshops. My favorite is the one developed by the Lead Like Jesus ministry, founded by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges, the authors of the book by the same name, and led by Phyllis Hendry.

To become a great leader, one of the key attributes highlighted in this program is Humility. It’s the perfect antidote to pride, a very dangerous and damaging quality found in all of us at some point in time.

In my workbook Developing Your Differentiating Values for Business, I define humility as follows:

Humility = a disposition to be humble; a lack of false pride

It’s firstly about being humble. Both humility and humble are derived from the Latin word humus (earth) meaning “grounded.” Most people understand this concept.

However, I find that the issue of pride is a controversial topic.

There’s a difference between the type of pride one feels when they’ve accomplished a goal or are excited to be a part of something bigger (e.g. playing on a sports team or being a citizen of a country), versus the type of pride one might possess when they feel better, smarter, stronger, higher, etc. than others. An important note: if you find yourself proudly telling others about your accomplishments, you’ve lost any sense of humility.

Another author who supports this position is Jim Collins, as he outlined in his bestselling book Good to Great. Collins references humility as a key attribute found in those who lead great companies. He also highlights that humility is a value to be sought after, but never claimed.

Since no one can authentically claim humility, are there other ways to recognize its existence? Potentially, yes.

The Offspring of Humility

I recently read a discerning article by Dan Rockwell on the value of Humility. Dan has written on the topic of leadership for many years. In this article he took a unique approach to looking at humility by focusing on the The Four Children of Humility. The foundation of this idea is based on a quote by Steven R Covey: “Humility truly is the mother of all virtues.”

With this in mind, Dan provides the following four attributes as offspring of humility.

  1. Humility is the mother of grit. This enables us to fail, learn, and get up again.
  2. Humility is the mother of taking responsibility. This enables us to stay focused on things within our control.
  3. Humility is the mother of connection. This enables us to influence others without needing positional power.
  4. Humility is the mother of vitality. This enables us to step into unfamiliar territory with enthusiasm.

I love this approach to looking at a value like humility, and possibly other values too. It opens the door to consider the linkage between values, and the power of combining a set of values together under one umbrella value.

Regarding humility, here are 4 more potential offspring of this value:

  1. Humility is the mother of empathy. This enables us to see and appreciate the challenges faced by others.
  2. Humility is the mother of being friendly. This enables us help and support others by being warm and approachable.
  3. Humility is the mother of inventiveness. This enables us to experiment knowing we might be wrong.
  4. Humility is the mother of learning and continuous improvement. This enables us to expand our knowledge base and help others and ourselves make progress.

Clearly humility is not a weak value. It requires tremendous fortitude and strength to remain positive, to keep pushing forward, while acknowledging you don’t have all the answers.

In a business environment, humility gives permission to employees to acknowledge their mistakes and highlight what they’re doing to learn and grow and that will ultimately enhance the competitive positioning of the company.

With all of these many benefits, I wonder why more companies don’t embrace humility as a differentiating value?


P.S. Later the same day, Dan Rockwell wrote a brief follow up article on this topic, titled Slapped at the Hotel Front Desk. I encourage you to check it out!