Are You Humble?

As a leader, you must create the environment in your own image that allows your team to thrive.

Being humble and having humility is one of the most important traits of any leader in any industry throughout the world. I have to admit; when I started my engineering career as an apprentice, I thought I was “it”.

I was a bit cocky and a little bit arrogant. In fact, a lot of the younger engineers I worked with all had a “chip on their shoulder”.

Before starting work in the manufacturing plant, we had to spend six months in the training school. That is where we were taught hands on technical skills and also begin our college work. I wasn’t the best in the class at the technical work, but I was one of the best at the college work.

I got really good grades in our assignments and exams. I’m not proud to tell you that having these good grades definitely fuelled my ego, and I thought I was better than the other apprentices.

When we had to do team exercises, if one person was “lagging behind”, then instead of helping that person, the rest of us would complain about him. This behaviour of complaining, lack of help and humility from me didn’t go unnoticed, and was reported through to my company.

Then when it came to my reviews, I couldn’t understand why they would think of me as a person who dismissed other team members and complained about them.

1. Seeing Our Own Weaknesses

Sometimes it’s hard to see in ourselves that we have weaknesses. My weakness was my lack of humility and being a bit arrogant towards my fellow team members.

It took me a long time to realise that this was actually a weakness, another ten years in fact. But what I needed to do was to take a good hard look within myself. We all have weaknesses in life, some are easy to come to terms with and some are a lot harder.

You know yourself better than anyone else knows you, but there are things that you don’t know about yourself yet. They are things that you really do need to know in order to continue in the right direction.

Knowing a weakness and coming to terms with it can have a huge impact on your life and the people around you. It can also have an impact on your work, the team that you work in and the organisation you work with. Previously I have discussed a weakness of mine that took me a long time to realise, and before I did I was unhappy.

For a long time, I was my problem and I didn’t know about it. One thing I have learned since discovering I was the problem is, everyone is their own problem.

What I was trying to do was to take the easy root by changing my job. However, when I changed my job I still felt exactly the same and was unhappy. Then I did the same thing again, changed my job and nothing changed. What I was doing was changing what was easiest.

It doesn’t seem easy to change jobs but from what was required to change (ME), it definitely was the easiest to change. When things started to get better for me and I was feeling differently and happier, was when I started to change and I worked on myself.

2. Embracing Change Of Yourself

Embracing change does not mean change what you want, you must change what is needed.

Looking back on it now, changing yourself is a lot harder than changing your job, or anything else for that matter. It made me realise a lot about myself that I had no idea about.

How do you see yourself? The way our family, friends and colleagues see us is different to how we see ourselves. Even the way we see ourselves is not actually how we really are. We don’t look deeply inside ourselves enough, and if we did we would be working on ourselves a lot more and changing more things about ourselves.

How you behave, and how people react or feel because of your behaviour will either increase or decrease the influence you have with them.

As a member of your organisation and working within your current team, what you do in that team, how you do it, how much effort you put in, if you are willing to go the extra mile or not, your level of pay; all of this will determine your level of influence at your place of work.

If you want to gain trust with the people you work with, then you will need to increase your level of influence. The same goes in your personal life too.

If you need help from people you are working with or from friends and family, then you will need to increase your level of influence with them. Hopefully you can see a pattern emerging, and that if you have influence, you have leadership.

3. Increasing Your Influence

Let me give you an example of this:

I led the engineering team at a train operating company based in London. We were the team that put together the train maintenance instructions, and were responsible for the approvals of any engineering changes, or modifications to the trains.

It was a Monday morning and the production teams had to get trains into service on time as quick and as safely as possible, so we could make the morning peak and keep the customers happy. If we didn’t, then we would leave a lot of unhappy customers stranded at stations and unable to get to work on time.

This would be very bad for the company and its reputation, and I would be getting a lot of phone calls from senior leaders wanting explanations.

So, do I do what I can to help the production teams by utilising members of my team to increase the manpower and expertise? Or, do I leave the production teams on their own to get on with it, because it’s not my team’s job to get trains out?

If I decide to help the production teams to help keep our customers happy, then that will increase my influence and build trust with my team, my boss and his boss.

If I decide to leave the production teams on their own and risk getting enough trains out on time to make the service, then that will heavily decrease my influence and break trust with my team, my boss and his boss .

No matter what decision I make, they will both be talked about within the engineering teams and among the senior leaders. One will be discussed positively and one will be discussed negatively. What choice would you make? To help the production teams, or leave them on their own? It’s an obvious choice really.

4. Building Relationships And Trust

I made the decision to help the production teams and utilise our team as best we could. They would also help to give advice on getting the trains out into service as safely as possible. I was so pleased we helped because we had happy customers and the morale of the teams improved.

The relationships between everyone improved too, and I received quite a bit of praise from the other managers. This would increase my influence and trust with the other members of the engineering team.

I’m pretty sure you have had similar examples in your area of work too. It’s examples like these that we should be striving to be every day. Increasing our influence and building trust with our colleagues should be at the top of all of our agendas, every day. It is all a decision, and we really must be making the right one.

Where are you now in your career? Do you feel that you are in the right place? If not, then what do you need to stop doing, and what do you need to start doing?

We need to take a very deep look within ourselves and realise that our problem is with OURSELVES, not with OTHERS.

Everything that happens in your life is your responsibility. If you believe that, you can change anything.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

Check out my other articles by Clicking HERE

All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

22 thoughts on “Are You Humble?

  1. This is eye opening read…something we know is true but not something that is widely talked about in regard to finding a solution.

    It’s ironic to think about but most of us are courteous in our “private life”. We hold the door, say “please” and “thank you”, we cover the coffee for that guy who just realized he left his wallet at home. This all happens on our way to work but then we walk through the door and everything changes.

    In the blink of an eye we all become someone who strives to stand out, to be better, to strut our stuff in an effort to get that next promote and salary raise. Helping someone else becomes a weakness, maybe even a detriment to our own career.
    Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. I like your way better.

    1. Hi Cynthia,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found the article eye opening.

      I like your analogy that on the way to work, we are kind, pleasant and will help anyone. Then, when we walk through the doors of work, we seem to change. I believe this is true to an extent. Thank you for sharing.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. I think the points you raise here really are the difference between good and bad leaders.

    Good leaders reflect upon their actions and they think “could that have gone better?”, they ask themself if there is anything they could have done better.

    So many fear being wrong to the point where they dont admit it. They see it as a sign of weakness when really it is a sign of strength. A Everyone makes mistakes and the ones that are honest with themselves and others about these mistakes a strong, confident leaders.

    Being honest with yourself and others allows you to trust yourself and allows others to trust you too. Trust is essential in leadership. I will not follow somebody I cant trust.

    Thank you for sharing. I love what you are doing here. I wish all managers and leaders would read this.

    1. Hi Catherine,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so happy that you find the article helpful.

      It’s great that you believe these points are the difference between good and bad leaders because that was kind of my aim. Humility is the difference between a confident leader and an arrogant leader. I love how you raise honesty because you are so right, being honest with yourself and others allows you to trust yourself and allows others to trust you. Truth will set you free.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Hi Tom,

    What a great article. I remember that my first boss was a very arrogant person and he believes he knows everything and that we should obey by its rules without ever questioning his knowledge. He was wrong so many times but no one in the company has ever challenged him. I guess everyone was scared to be in his bad books.

    I must say that without understanding your own weaknesses and being able to change and improve yourself, no one will ever respect, trust or admire you.

    A great leader is able to see his employee as his equals, treat them with humanity and respect and lead them by example .

    1. Hi Yoana,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased you found the article valuable.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences with your first boss because I had the exact same experience with my first boss. I was so frightened of him, and I didn’t have the courage to challenge him on anything, even though he was wrong a lot of the time too. So, you are not alone here.

      You are so right, a great leader is able to see his/her employees as equals and lead by example (this is my most important leadership principle).

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Hello and what a great article about humility and leadership.

    I was a leader of a group in my previous job (voice recording engineering) and as part of my upbringing, I always treat everybody with respect and always be humble regardless of their status in life, educational background, experience, etc. I can really relate to your article.

    I am even open to learning from my subordinates, always see to it whatever you do, do it with passion and let your subordinates realize that and influence them. Have the whole team be accountable, and not pointing fingers (I always see to it that everything I knew, they should know too so they don’t need to wake me up in the middle of my sleep and vice versa). Delegate assignments in a project, have them be involved and learn. When you learn something new, always share it to the team. That are some of the work environment that I imparted with them.

    I admit I have one weakness that I am still trying to correct and that is to stand firm with bullies or narcissists. Most will say to stay away and let them be but I always stand firm (stick to the facts) to them showing I am not impress and even pointed the reason why they are bullying and that is to cover their weaknesses/shortcomings.

    I am not sure if I am heading to a big trouble or actually helping them realize their wrong-doings.

    Thank you for this article.

    1. Hi Lemuel,

      Thank you for your very thorough comment. I’m so pleased that you found the article valuable.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences in your previous role in a leadership position. I believe a lot of people will be able to resonate with you and what you have been through.

      Developing on your weakness that you describe is great, and thank you for recognising that with us. If you need any help or advice on this then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Great article, Tom!

    Super interesting information on this blog i need to check out the other articles.

    What’s very hard is to see your own weaknesses it really takes a long time, but you need to start working on your self.

    Thanks for the helpful explanation!

    1. Hi Yosef,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that you found the article helpful, and please do check out my other articles.

      If you need any help on developing your weaknesses then don’t hesitate to contact me.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. I think it is really hard for people to look inward. I am bipolar so I learned to monitor my behavior and look inward at a young age. Sometimes it makes me a little too compassionate but I would rather be able to relate to people than be a robot!

    1. Hi Brianna,

      Thank you for your comment and thank you for being so open with us.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experiences with us, and I completely agree that being compassionate and relating to people is a lot better than being robotic with people.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Definitely, everything that happens in our life is our own responsibility. And I must say that was a difficult concept for me when I was younger. Sometimes I wish I was managing my former team again, but then with my present knowledge 🙂
    Just to know if I would do better now.
    Great article, Tom, thanks!

    1. Hi Hannie,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased you found the article valuable.

      I often feel the same, and if I could go back to leading some of my former teams with the knowledge I have today, we could achieve a lot more. I would definitely do a lot of things differently, and one of those things would be to listen a lot more and a lot better.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Hi, Tom,

    Wonderful article here.

    I have a question regarding woking with our weaknesses.

    If a person is too shy, to the extent that it’s difficult to him to integrate into new social groups, on work, among colleaques, etc., what practices or strategies would you suggest to overcome this weakness?

    I appreciate your feedback on this and looking forward to your reply!

    Best Wishes,
    Natalie

    1. Hi Natalie,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found the article helpful.

      Thank you for the question. With people who are shy and struggle with social groups, the thing to do is to start small with one person, and then build it up the more confidence you build. For me, I was quite shy when I was younger, and what helped me was to be honest with people about it. You will find that if you are open and honest that you find social groups challenging, then people will try to help you. If you keep it to yourself then they will think that you just don’t like them or you are just a miserable person, which you obviously are not. So, be open and honest with others about it, and start small.

      Hope that helps.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. I believe that learning to take responsibility for our actions is very important. It is too often that we find ourselves blaming others for problems that were not their fault. I don’t know if this is human nature, but what I do know is that everyone is capable of looking into themselves and changing themselves for the better. Thanks a lot for writing this article and reminding me of the importance of looking into yourself.

    1. Hi Alejandro,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found the article helpful.

      I completely agree with you that we are all capable of looking inside ourselves and can change ourselves for the better. We just need to work harder on doing that.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. As someone who was called into the office years ago because of a complaint a colleague made about me, I can absolutely relate to this. That colleague filed a complaint, without having all the information, and although many people spoke up in my defense, the complaint was there and tarnished my reputation. People joked about it years later, not knowing what had really happened. I never saw the humor in it …
    For that reason, I do not file complaints about colleagues, because I know what it feels like, especially when the complainer does not even know everything. Instead, I speak to the person and try to clear up things, because 99% of the time, conflicts are based on stupid misunderstandings, and with a simple conversation it is easily clarified and solved.
    Your website should be shared with companies, they could sure use your tips and advice 🙂

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so happy that you can relate to this article.

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. It is a shame that this person felt they needed to make a complaint and shame on them for doing it without having 100% factual information. Complaints are very, very serious and I know what you mean, that even though it didn’t come through, it it still leaves a mark on us and our reputation. I had something similar happen to me years ago, and sometimes people bring it up a part of a casual conversation or to make a joke about it.

      You are better than that though and the work you are doing right now is so important and valuable. Keep it up.

      All the best,

      Tom

  11. I can relate to this post. So many times I see people who try to be leaders but in reality they are just controlling others, criticizing and giving orders. It is important as you mentioned to work on ourselves first and dare to accept that we make mistakes too. We need to show people that no one is perfect but everyone can get better and improve. A good leader should be a role model just as you describe in your article.

    Keep up the good work

    1. Hi Ladia,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you an relate to this article.

      I completely agree with you, we need to accept that we make mistakes and showing people that we too are vulnerable and that nobody is perfect is how we build trust. This is also how we role model to our people and lead by example.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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