Former Senator from Connecticut, Joseph Lieberman, was talking once about humility in politics. When people are talking about why humility matters in politics they are usually talking about it in the least humble way. There’s that caveat. He said when he was feeling really important, he had opened his Senate desk. It’s tradition for all the Senators to write their name inside their Senate floor desk. Senator Lieberman realized he didn’t know who any of the Senators were who previously occupied that desk. It was a moment when he realized that we’re only here for a while. So, it depends what you do in that while. What you do on your watch.
In a global marketplace where problems are increasingly complex, no one person will ever have all the answers. That’s why in a June 2013 interview with the New York Times, Google’s SVP of People Operations at the time, 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.”
Many people today view humility as weakness. But those with emotional intelligence (EQ) value humility. They are quick to accept criticism, using it to grow. They realize being humble doesn’t mean that they lack self-confidence or that they never stand up for their opinions or principles. Rather, it involves recognizing that they don’t know everything–and being willing to learn from others.
Success depends on asking the right questions, experimenting and constantly adjusting your approach. It hinges even more on your level of humility. Are you too confident in your own judgment? Do you believe too strongly in your old ways of doing business? Do you think that because something has worked many times before, it will work again now? Do you have blind spots? Do you have the humility to understand that, even with great collaboration, you will not get everything right and that you can’t know everything yourself?
In my coaching practice we spend a fair amount of time working on EQ skills. The more focused you are on your EQ skills, the closer you come to unlocking your potential for great leadership. Start by looking inward. Ask yourself, do I lead with humility or ego? Look outward. What matters most to others? How am I perceived? What expectations do they hold that I need to address in order to be successful?
By asking for feedback and expressing gratitude when you receive it, you demonstrate a humble commitment to self-improvement.