The Paradox of Humility

While humility is often venerated as a key quality of leadership it seems it is rarely found in real life leaders. We agree as a society that we value this quality in a leader but when we look at many famous and everyday leaders–those chosen in the workplace, in other organizations, in politics who we favor don’t seem to represent what we claim to value.

Many writers on the topic of leadership have demonstrated time and again through examples that humility is at the backbone of the most successful leaders and companies right along with persistence. Yet these are the exceptional; the exception.

Evidence also demonstrates the when it comes to being promoted to leadership roles, climbing an origination’s ladder and winning political election one has a much better chance when they are not humble.

It seems we tend to elect leaders based on their confidence, assertiveness ability to be ignorant of their limitations. This is why the incompetent are overwhelmingly represented in leadership roles. The recipe of victory seems to be overconfidence, hiding limitations, don’t worry about people’s opinions and to lean in even harder when one’s talents can’t back up what they promise.

Part of the problem then is what we value in a leader—the market will provide what we value most.

Practicing Being Deliberate

When practicing being deliberate, we have to break down an area of expertise into a series of smaller, achievable practices. We must engage in structured activities that improve performance in a specific area. The goal of being deliberate is not just to reach your potential but to build it. To make things possible that were not possible before. It will take a long time. It will be hard. It is supposed to be difficult. If being an expert was easy, everyone would be one.

But how we keep going in the face of difficulty? That is perhaps the biggest question we can ask when practicing being deliberate. Anyone can get started, that is the easy part. The popularity of self-help books and guides to success is evidence of this. The many gym memberships abandoned by February is evidence of this.

When we decide to learn a new language, learn to play an instrument we run out and buy things and jump right in. There is an exciting energy to engaging in a new adventure. But then reality hits; we hit that wall. We don’t find time to practice. We don’t improve as fast as we thought we would. It stops being fun and we view it as a chore. Eventually we give up altogether.

Why? Frankly, its hard work.

Being deliberate and breaking down your goal into attainable pieces is a way to pace oneself. We shouldn’t tell ourselves we will become Jimi Hendrix by the end of the year. We should tell ourselves we will learn to play a simple song in two months. We will learn the scales in six months. We will learn correct finger positions by the end of the first month.

We should give ourselves goals we can reach.