Have you ever blown it? I knew it…you are! I tell people all the time that those who listen to my podcast are perfect – they don’t need me because they don’t struggle with human things! Ha! If only that were true. It’s hard to talk about being humble because media often represents humility as weakness.
Regardless of your political leanings or affections, have you ever seen a less humble man than President Trump? Actually, I have. To clarify, the world is littered with arrogant and unapologetic men and women.
Humility is strength. It’s the ability to admit when you’re wrong and to identify or admit your flaws or shortcomings. But taken to an unhealthy extreme, it can lead to shame. And we must avoid shame.
I’ve never been a fan of the saying “Shame on you.” And that’s because shame identifies with worthlessness or being unworthy. It’s due to how shame makes you feel. Shame makes you want to hide your face or run away. It’s feeling like the exposure will guarantee that no one will ever want anything to do with you again. Ever. So, is that how you want (or how you want others!) to feel?
People often contend with shame by attacking themselves or attacking others. And can you blame them? Have you seen how injured animals behave? I’m not saying people are animals but I am saying that feeling cornered and hurt, lashing out shouldn’t be unexpected. Similarly, you’ve heard the saying that hurt people hurt people. Shame built part of that foundation.
Who’s hurting in your world? Do you see them? Do you notice them? Are you connecting with them or do you avoid them? Each living, breathing human has inherent worth. Not just you and me, but all those we disagree with as well. Not just the ones that look like us or think like us, but even the ones who rub us the wrong way!
I guess what I’m asking you today is whether you can practice humility, laugh at your mistakes or yourself, deal with the embarrassing missteps we all make and prevent the slide into shame? As leaders, we get to set the example. It’s our job to show people how to lead with strength even when we’ve made mistakes.
Because humility isn’t only required when experiencing mistakes, I want to share with you a few examples of humility in action when experiencing success. Success isn’t always what it appears to be. Consequently, neither the journey or the amount of effort is accurately represented.
I heard Dave Ramsey say one time how misguided people are when assessing his success. During an EntreLeadership podcast episode, he described the mountain top of success as literally just standing on the top of all my failures. Dave said that he refused to let his failures bury him.
In spite of failure, you have to keep digging deeper to find, and hold onto, that determination that you will come out on top! But this is true for all successful people. We just don’t see it as clearly.
So, sometimes humility shows up when we acknowledge that our success isn’t at all how it appears to others. And it’s noteworthy to point out the possibility that this is not success at all! Have you heard the analogy of climbing the ladder of success only to find it was leaning against the wrong wall? Is it possible that because of success, you lost things that were far more valuable than the prize you were pursuing?
Humility isn’t shy about identifying the hard work and preparation that paved the way for success. Rather than being embarrassed about it, humility honors the sacrifice required to reach this pinnacle and all those who preceded us. And this leads to one of the most admirable traits of a great leader: she recognizes that the contribution of each individual produced the result of achieving this milestone.
I’ll bet you hadn’t thought of humility like that before! When we are frank about our effort, we kill the notion that just any old level of commitment can produce this result. We also kill the notion that putting in the effort guarantees the outcome. Sometimes humility is forced to acknowledge that we can’t say exactly why it worked this time!
John Maxwell, Michael Hyatt and Dave Ramsey all talk about the Momentum Theorem as it relates to leadership. And the principle is this: when you have momentum, you look smarter than you really are. Everything appears to be easy.
It’s like a flywheel that was already in motion. It appears to be spinning effortlessly and consequently is going to take significant resistance to slow it down. We know that objects in motion tend to stay in motion – in other words, it’s easier to keep it going than it is to stop and start again.
This is the one thing I want you to remember from today’s episode: while humility acknowledges all that went into moving the flywheel, it’s critically important to keep the wheel turning. In other words, don’t allow your team to lose momentum! It’s much, much easier to sustain even small amounts of momentum than stopping and having to get it going again.
It applies personally and professionally. The flip-side of the Momentum Theorem, when applied to leadership, is this: when you don’t have momentum, you look dumber than you are!
There will be times when it looks like you have no idea what you are doing. When you start with practical steps to initiate some momentum, just like the flywheel, you are going to encounter a lot of resistance. Don’t let that stop you!
You will have to scrape and claw for every inch of progress. Think of it this way: the flywheel has come to rest and you have to initiate movement again. This takes massive effort. Once it’s spinning and the team is benefitting as a result, it’s much easier to sustain and some of the resistance (not all) will diminish.
So be humble in your failure and success while focusing on maintaining momentum so you can move yourself and your team on to the next big achievement!
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