As complex and complicated as ethics are in the modern world – arguably more so than at any other age in human history – there are still defining virtues in life that seem truly timeless. Among these are the inarguable virtues of patience, good will, generosity, and courage; to name but a very few. Today, however, we consider a virtue that stands among them with no less stature but that comes with a degree of complexity under the modern lens: humility. Humility has been a laudable quality since time immemorial, noted as an aspect of both great people and great deeds. However, just as any other matter, there are extremes in play and overindulgences in anything can see it taken too far into a negative arena. And in no other case is this closer to the truth than in weaving the virtue of humility with the world of modern business.
Make no mistake, being overly humble has the potential, if not assurance, of severely hindering your career. Culturally, a sense of confidence is the hallmark of our business leaders. While the word carries a certain negative connotation, arrogance is not far from the mark as well; and a certain degree of arrogance can do a great deal for moving professionals up the corporate ladder. That being said, let’s not make the mistake of a measured ‘arrogance’ being synonymous with egotism or excessive vanity. Just as before, the proper temperament is found in moderation and strategy.
As such, we’ll be taking a closer look into both the positive and negative effects of the humble approach in a professional environment.
Being a self-starter, taking the initiative, demonstrative leadership abilities; all of these attributes are congruent with those things executives keep an eye out for promotion and advancement. Preventing yourself from being able to step forward into the limelight when the opportunity arises can be a real issue. This is not about always working to be the center of attention, but rather recognizing when a challenge presents itself that you are confident in your abilities and expertise to handle. With an excessive sense of humbleness or shyness, you ensure that you’ll be overlooked.
Office culture forms in much the same manner as any other, with experience and interaction. Given that the intentional development of humility is not among the most common of pursuits in western culture, certain misunderstandings of your peers and colleagues may arise. For instance, reputations may develop along unfair lines: A humble person runs the risk of being considered unambitious, a follower, or one not to be trusted with managerial responsibilities.
All of that taken together allows an individual to walk a more careful path, avoiding the pitfalls of too much humility without compromising their integrity. Here are a few ways in which humility may set you apart and enable you to succeed:
- Self-assurance – A humble person is less likely to accord blame or mistakes to themselves when they know it to not be the case.
- A humble person generally has a greater sense of others, a compassion toward their peers and superiors that is independent of their status or recognition.
- Building relationships and strong networks comes most easily to those who don’t have too much overt concern about getting themselves ahead before all else. A strong and viable network of people across the professional spectrum who know you for a genuinely good and caring person is, in a word, invaluable.
A powerful and mature sense of humility is ideal for maintaining an internal balance, not allowing the pressures and expectations of the professional world to wear you down.
It all comes down to this: As with any virtue, humility is a personal matter of pursuit and growth. Take all things into accord and measure them against your personal morals and ethics. How you live your life and engage in your career is a decision you and no other will have to live with.
Further Reading: What Business Leaders Can Learn From One Another
Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200