Business Leaders Share the Importance of Humility
“Even on the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.” – Michel de Montaigne, 1588
Have you ever wondered what the characteristics are that make someone successful?
The organizers of a leadership conference where I recently spoke invited five of the most influential, successful and well-known business owners attending to partake in a panel conversation. The idea was for these leaders to field questions from fellow attendees and share candidly around overcoming challenges, embracing opportunities and accelerating growth.
There were questions around time management, evaluating talent, mentoring, employee engagement and growing profits in tightening markets. As the segment concluded there was time for one final question. A woman a few seats from me stood, took the microphone and thanked the panelists for their time. She then continued, “Each of you are so highly successful. To what trait do you attribute that success?”
An awesome question and the perfect way to wrap up the conversation. The answers shared included statements like:
- Personal resiliency. While everyone deals with setbacks, I bounce forward.
- My hustle. I can be out-smarted, but cannot be out-worked.
- When I set a goal, I’m relentless, absolutely relentless, in obtaining it.
- An uncanny ability of blending successful strategy with purpose-driven action.
Although all these answers might help the attendees, I think it was the final share that will not only most benefit a group of senior leaders within their organizations, but each and every one of us today.
The Unlikely Secret to Success
The last leader took the microphone. He held it in his hands for a moment, looking down. He then slowly raised his head, looked at the audience, and shared:
“This may not be the answer you’re looking for, but for me the most important trait in achieving success is humility.”
He paused, surveyed the audience and then added, “You see, neither my mother nor father was born in the United States. They grew up with nothing and because of that, appreciated everything. Although they worked tirelessly, their reliance on one another and their community taught me that the majority of the success we obtain relies on chance opportunities provided and the support of others. So, regardless of how successful I might become, I remember where I came from and all the people who helped get me here. It keeps me hungry to grow and grounded in what matters. So, odd as it may sound, my trait is humility.”
(I thought of this gentleman’s answer while listening to the testimony of my most recent Live Inspired Podcast guests, Kim and Joe Koenig. As a couple, they have become closer while dealing with adversity, raising three boys, giving generously in the community, overcoming a life-threatening cancer diagnosis and growing World Wide Technology -from a business generating a few million dollars in revenue to one that employees more than 6,000 and generates more than $11 billion in revenue. How have they done all of this? For Kim and Joe, it’s been simple, but rarely easy: Leaning into one another and their community with profound love and humility. To learn more about their story and how you can thrive, too, listen to one of my favorite episodes here.)
Humility: A Forgotten Virtue?
My friends, many of our leaders in government, corporations, academia, and life seem incredibly besotted with themselves.
It seems as if they use a significant amount of their words, their time and their energy bragging about themselves. The grins on their faces reveal more a smirk of self-assuredness than a smile reflecting the joy experienced in humbly living interdependence.
Almost five centuries ago a reminder was shared that even on the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom. It turns out we are more alike than we typically care to acknowledge.
We are far better together, and we can’t achieve real success or significance on our own.
Starting with our own.
This is your day. Live Inspired.