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The setting:  a leadership workshoppower of humility

Participants: 25 high potentials from a variety of companies

The topic: how leaders balance confidence and humility in context of Jim Collins’ level 5 leadership  (“transformative executives possess a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will”)

The bottom line to this activity blew me away:  only five people—a mere 20% of those participating—believed humility was an important leadership attribute.

Talk about things that me say “hmmmmmmmm!”

Collins wrote:

My preliminary hypothesis is that there are two categories of people: those who don’t have the Level 5 seed within them and those who do. The first category consists of people who could never in a million years bring themselves to subjugate their own needs to the greater ambition of something larger and more lasting than themselves. For those people, work will always be first and foremost about what they get—the fame, fortune, power, adulation, and so on. Work will never be about what they build, create, and contribute.

Here are the reasons given by workshop participants for not being interested in using or demonstrating humility at work:

  • Doing so means you’re weak and incompetent
  • It isn’t a leadership trait that would cause people to follow you
  • You won’t be given key assignments or promotions
  • Says you’re an introvert who can’t be counted on to speak up
  • Means you are wishy-washy
  • Makes you vulnerable and that’s not a position of strength 

I’m fascinated by this feedback.

What’s your take on it?

Image source before quote: