Arrogance – an exaggerated sense of your own importance or belief you are better than others – is the enemy of humility. It is a highly destructive trait for individuals and organizations. It blinds people to their limitations and biases them against the contributions of others. Lack of humility is so destructive that Pope Gregory listed pride as one of the Seven Deadly Sins more than 1400 years ago. Arrogance has led to the downfall of many once-successful societies, organizations and individuals.
Humility is the absence of arrogance, not the denial of strength or intelligence. To be humble is to understand and accept yourself as you really are and accept others as they really are. Having an accurate sense of self-worth begins by believing you have inherent value as a person – which has nothing to do with title, status or money – and then discovering your talents and developing them into valued skills. Admitting when you need help, can’t do something well or need to improve is liberating. It frees you to focus on how you can best contribute and allows others to do the same.
Intellectual honesty is closely related to humility. It is dedication to truth and constructively dealing with reality, even when it is painful. Instead of only looking for evidence to support our ideas and views, it is to sincerely seek constructive feedback and strive to see things as they really are, rather than how we wish them to be. This is difficult because even when we ask for criticism, we often want praise. We constructively deal with reality by stopping unprofitable endeavors, being realistic about threats that could harm our business and experimenting to create better results. People who are intellectually honest change their paradigms when those paradigms are holding them back.
Maintaining humility when you’ve been successful is especially challenging. The minute we believe our success is inevitable or feel we are entitled to our success, we’re in serious trouble. True humility is reflected in our willingness to hold ourselves and others accountable for results and behavior consistent with Our Values. We should have high expectations of ourselves and others, willingly admit our mistakes, make corrections when we fall short of these standards and give credit where credit is due.