Do You Have Humility?

Who do you think about the most, yourself or others?

Throughout my career I have worked with lots of people in the UK from the rail industry and the automotive industry. In my experience a lot of those people I have worked with are very hard working, will go the extra mile and will dedicate themselves to the cause.

1. Learning Good Traits Early

Mostly our cause was to get the job done on time and to the best of our ability. The reason for that is because we knew how to get things done, we knew how to do a job well and we would not give up until that job is done.

That’s what I love about the people I have worked alongside, and being around those people has distilled these ethics into me.

I have learned so much from the people I have worked with, and I’d like to think that they have learned from me too. Looking out for each other and helping each other are some of the best traits a person can have. There are lot of other people from all over the world who would do well to develop those traits.

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Another excellent trait a person can have is taking pride in what they do. For me, when I started as an apprentice engineer in 1999, I was part of the team that built the assembly lines for car companies so that they could form their car engines.

I took extreme pride in doing that job because I knew that what I was doing was helping people from all over the world, not only to help build cars, but to make their customers happy. With that frame of mind, I always wanted to know the next stages of the process when we were finished, and how we could make our processes better.

The thirst for knowledge and improvement has been with me for my whole life. Continuous improvement is a phrase that is overused in most industries throughout the world, but it is one of the most important.

I’ve always been a person who wondered about things. Why does that do that? Why do we work a certain way? How can we make things better? How can we be more productive? How can we be more efficient?

By thinking like this and never being satisfied by how things work is how we as people stay fresh. By being fresh, we need to have a learner’s mindset. We should always be learning, and never be satisfied.

2. Don’t Be Afraid Of The “Stupid Question”

When I was a child, I used to drive my parents crazy because I always wanted to know why things happened. I was a very curious kid, and would not sit still until my questions of why and how were answered.

That way of thinking then followed me to my adult life, even now I have never been afraid to ask the “stupid question”. A lot of people think that asking questions is a sign of weakness, but it isn’t. It is a sign of strength.

Don’t ever be afraid to ask the “stupid question”, because the chances are that somebody else wanted to ask the same question but they were too afraid to. There is no such thing as a “stupid question”.

When asking a lot of questions to learn new things and acquire better and more knowledge, it is amazing to hear the answers to your questions. Not because they are right, wrong, great or silly, it is because of the reaction of the person.

Do they answer you with humility and understanding or do they answer you aggressively? I’m pretty sure we have all had both reactions from people. What we can learn from these reactions is the person’s character, and if they want to help us or not.

3. “Who” Do You Work With?

When working in a team in our area of work, whether on a factory floor, on a building site or in an office, I have found that there are three types of people that we work with:

  1. People who want to share their knowledge and are more than happy to teach you what they know. I had a mentor for years and his primary focus was me and helping me to grow. He didn’t care how much of his knowledge he shared.
  2. People who want to share their knowledge because it makes them feel superior to you. They think they are the special one in the team and nobody else knows as much as them. So, they like to show off and let you think that they are smarter than you.
  3. People who are insecure and don’t want others to know what they know because it will threaten their position. An engineer I worked with once said to me that if he tells people what he knows, the company might fire him.

When a person’s main goal of sharing their knowledge is to help you learn and grow, then that shows a huge amount of confidence from them. However, more importantly it shows that they have humility.

4. How To Show Humility

Having humility shows that you are willing to put others first, and help them to work towards the team’s purpose. Having humility is a strength for a highly effective leader and putting the needs of others before their own can only make the team stronger.

A highly effective leader with humility wants the best for their team. A highly effective leader with humility brings out the best for their team. A highly effective leader with humility focuses on the purpose and cause, and how each one of us can make a difference.

When a person’s main goal of sharing their knowledge is to appear smarter than you, then that shows that they are very arrogant. However, again more importantly it shows that they do not have humility.

I am pretty sure you know and have worked with the three people I have described above. The difference between number 1 and number 2 is humility. A confident person without humility is just arrogant.

What kind of person would you describe yourself as, confident or arrogant? Who would you rather work with? Who would you rather learn from? Which type of person do you think you could influence the most? Which type of person do you think could be the best leader within your team?

Sharing knowledge is a quality of a highly effective leader. So, if you want to be a leader within your team and have people follow you because they want to, then it is essential that you are willing to share your knowledge with them.

However, when thinking about your future, and what you want to create, you have to make a decision. Do you want to be known as an arrogant person or a confident person? This decision can only be made by you, so make sure that you make the right one.

As we have already discussed, if you want to influence your team mates then they have to trust you. Are they more likely to trust an arrogant person or a confident person? If you come across as arrogant to your team, you are putting yourself before the team. If you come across as confident to your team, you are putting them before you.

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A person who has an arrogant attitude will lose trust with their team. A person with a confident attitude will build trust and increase their influence with their team.

When discussing earlier about always asking questions, even if they are “stupid questions”, it is a sign of strength but also a sign of confidence. By admitting that you don’t know something will build trust with others and they will be more likely to help you and share their knowledge.

People who pretend they know something and don’t want to come across as “stupid” by asking questions, is a sign of arrogance. This creates distrust with others and will be less likely to help you because they have been misled and lied to.

Being humble is a strength, but knowing and admitting that you have weaknesses is also a strength. A leader who has humility, who also acknowledges their weaknesses is a highly effective leader.

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.

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All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

20 thoughts on “Do You Have Humility?

  1. You’ve really proved a good point here and the simplicity in your “3 types of people” is relatable! Honestly, I think that I’ve seen myself being all 3 types in different periods in my life but now striving to show humility as much as I can.

    How do you deal with over-confident people? – Is it okay to tell them that their over-confidence comes out as arrogance?

    Cheers!

    1. Hi Jonas,

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

      It is absolutely okay to tell someone their over confidence is coming across as arrogance. It’s just HOW you tell them that is the skill. You want to tell them in a way that is helping them, and give them examples of how they are being. Then follow those examples with recommendations of how to behave in a more confident way. It is all about helping them, not upsetting them or insulting them.

      If you need any further help or advice then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. Great post Tom. I really enjoy your expertise in people management and leadership. Your website has been a huge help in progressing with my career in management. Thanks again

    1. Hi Russ,

      Thank you for your comment and kind words. It’s great to hear that you’re learning and that the articles are helping you.

      It makes me feel great for you to say that.

      If you need any further help or advice then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. A good point that is really well made about the “Stupid Question” element of this article – I agree that sometimes other people are too gutless to ask these kind of questions, and are just waiting for another person to do it on their behalf.

    1. Hi Simon,

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

      The “stupid question” can at times be the most important question that gets asked in a conversation because nobody else is willing to ask it.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Hello tom, as usual, I am always enjoyable reading your article.

    “Who” Do You Work With? Most of the leaders I met are the 3rd type indicated in your article. Well as you say, they are not the real successful leaders. They absolutely have bottleneck in their career. Maybe they do not even think it is a career, it is just a job.

    Luckily, I met 2 excellent bosses in my life, they are the 1st type learders who made me grow up quickly and strongly. If looking into their business, they are even better than before.

    I think that is the art of the leadership.

    1. Hi Daisy,

      Thank you for your comment and your kind words. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      Thank you for sharing your experience when working with leaders, it’s amazing how many people work with the 3rd type.

      Continue to work with the 1st type and you will become a 1st type too.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. An excellent observational article! A person you describe as a highly effective leader is in my opinion a rare “catch”. When someone is lucky enough, as you were with your mentor, to have a chance to learn from such a devoted person, and is willing to learn, be eager to know, yet humble enough to accept to be taught, inevitably becomes effective himself, like I guess you yourself became! You certainly proved it in this post!

    1. Hi Minaher,

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

      You are right, I was lucky enough to have a mentor who was great. Now, I want to be that mentor for others.

      If you ever need mentoring, advice or help from me then please let me know.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. Hi, Tom, great thoughts!

    I like the old saying that goes in line with what you have so well explained in this post:

    it’s better to ask a stupid question now than commit a stupid action later on.

    So, here is my question:

    What if a leader has to do with type 2 of people on his team?

    Besides being himself an example of how to show humility, is there anything else he could do to influence or motivate these people to become type 1?

    I appreciate your feedback on this!

    Best Wishes,

    Natalie

    1. Hi Natalie,

      Thank you for your comment and your question. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      To inspire someone who is a type 2 person into a type 1, the only thing a leader can do is coach the person, and most of all lead by example. If you don’t lead by example as a type 1, then the person will have nothing to follow.

      Showing the person that you really care for them, show them respect and genuinely help them to become a better person is the only way to help a person change. You cannot change them, they have to make the change for themselves. If you think you have done all you can with the person and they still don’t want to change, then maybe it is time for them to join a different team.

      Hope this helps.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Hi Tom,

    I love the analogy about the constant stream of questions you asked as a child (a trait I can definitely empathise with), and although my parents were extremely patient with me, it is a “skill” I seem to struggle with in adulthood.

    I know if someone asks me a question, no matter how obvious the answer may seem, I find it a pleasure to answer and I guess, impart knowledge.

    However, when it comes to me asking for help, I typically struggle, and perhaps view this in a negative manner (I’m not entirely sure why).

    I would like to think of myself as a humble person, and I think you are perfectly correct in stating that a highly effective leader should view humility as a strength.

    Great article as always.
    Partha

    1. Hi Partha,

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

      It is amazing that when we were children, we had no issue in asking lots and lot of questions. But, when we become adults we seem to think that asking questions will annoy people. We need to get out of that way of thinking.

      Humility definitely is a strength of a highly effective leader, and we should be working on our strengths.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Hi Tom, once again you really hit the nail on the head, so nice to read what it should be like. The old school days, we were told what to do and to not ask questions. I attended a webinar lately through work and the topic was because of covid-19 business need to look after and lead their staff more and the business who had been doing this have actually coped better. Thanks again. Regards Barry

    1. Hi Barry,

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

      Thanks for sharing your story on the webinar, and its great that the business are looking more into leading their staff better.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. Hi Tom, I also trained as an Engineer and it definitely teaches you humility. I don’t know if they did this with you, but in Canada we have the iron ring ceremony that literally serves as a reminder of the bridge that collapsed because the engineering team made a mistake.
    I always try to remind myself that I don’t know everything. It can be easy to slip into the mindset that “that’s obvious” but honestly nothing is obvious and other people can always serve to help or add insight.

    1. Hi Martina,

      Thank you for your comment. Engineering definitely does teach you humility.

      We don’t have anything like you do in Canada, but you’re right that we don’t know everything and we need others.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. Hi Tom,

    Love your classification of the 3 types of people in the workforce.

    Sharing knowledge is defintely a quality of a highly effective leader. Sadly, many leaders fall in the category of #2 and #3.

    I daresay, I occssionally caught myself being in #2 and #3 at various stages of my career a couple of times, but luckily had a good mentor to help me become self aware.

    Great post!

    1. Hi Ceci,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that you found the article valuable and it made you recognise things in yourself.

      I was also the same in category #2 and #3, but we both learned from those times. We need to keep using those lessons.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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