by Jayesh Menon
A few months ago while interacting with a group of students from a management university, a very respectable HR leader from another organisation and myself was asked for our bit of advice to the students on what would make them successful once they join the corporate world . The answer from both of us probably did surprise a few of them if not all of – Humility. I was also inspired to hear this from the CEO of DBS Bank in Singapore , Piyush Gupta whose advice to the youngsters was that “it is perfectly fine to be nice”.
Somehow the corporate world has been sending wrong signals about success and that if you need to succeed you need to be out there sticking your neck out. This is what I have learned during my MBA days too, so I would not blame if most students have not learned that the greatest success comes from nothing but personal humility (even if you have to stick your neck out). Personal humility does not mean being bulldozed, but rather getting your things done with being truly genuine about knowing your own limitations and acknowledging it. Humility means winning gracefully and being thankful to the people around you, even with those who might have done everything to stop you from winning. This is a skill that may not have found its place in competency dictionaries of many organisations, but something which like integrity is considered a must.
Infact being humble may be your most under rated yet sought after skills. Google’s SVP of People Operations, Lazlo Bock, says humility is one of the traits he’s looking for in new hires. “Your end goal,” explained Bock, “is what can we do together to problem-solve. I’ve contributed my piece, and then I step back.” And it is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute, says Bock—it’s “intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn.” Personal humility is not just for fresh graduates or the millennials, but for every one irrespective of which level you are in the organisation . Infact the higher up you are in the ladder, the more humble you are expected to be. Jim Collin asserts that a level 5 leader is a combination of humility + will.
However, as Jeff Haden writes in one of his blogs in LinkedIn, be careful of becoming a “humblerbrag”, where you try to cover up your brag by appearing to be humble. This is where personal humility comes in as not cultivated for an ulterior motive, but experienced either through learning or experiences in life. One of the helpful tips I have received from some of the great leaders that I have worked for is to ask for regular feedback, and if there is anyone who can truly tell you if you are genuinely humble is your colleagues, your friends and most importantly your own family. So go ahead and ask them, and you may be surprised with the feedback you would get. Also if you can, please feel free to share your own experiences of personal humility that may inspire others.