I remember 8 years ago reading Jim Collins’ famous books Good to Great and Built to Last and they have been very foundational to the way I think about charity, church or business growth. Collins and a team spend 5+ years studying why 11 corporations move from being good to being great. In one of the chapter Collins talks about the kind of person it takes to lead such an organisation, and he lists 2 qualities,
Quality one was no surprise = an incredibly strong will. However the second quality was more interesting = humility. He says these driven leader are self-effacing and modest. They consistently pointed to the contribution of others and didn’t like drawing attention to themselves. “The good-to-great leaders never wanted to become larger-than-life heroes…they never aspire to be put on a pedestal or become an unreachable icon. They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.”
Just the other week, I came across the same idea from a LinkedIn article with regards to hiring new people at Google. The author says
“When interviewing product managers at Google, we ranked candidates on four metrics: technical ability, communication skills, intellect and Googliness. A Googley person embodies the values of the company – a willingness to help others, an upbeat attitude, a passion for the company, and the most important, humility.”
He goes on to saying
Disruptive companies reinvent. They don’t copy and execute someone else’s playbook. To be disruptive, a startup’s team must cast aside preconceived notions and assumptions about doing things the “right way” and start inventing new ways.
The more time I spend in venture capital working with startups, the better I understand that there are no templates or stencils or best practices. Each startup team faces a unique market opportunity with distinct market dynamics, sales processes, competitive forces, assets and challenges.
In such circumstances, the best expeditionary force keeps open minds about the way forward. They learn from each other and the market. The first step to learning is accepting we don’t know everything.
Again, we see humility as an important quality in business. If you read ancient literature, humility only became a virtue from the time of Jesus. Before that the Romans put humility on a par with cowardice and fear – To be great was to strive for glory, not to be humble. However Jesus, in his life and death (most famously expressed in Philippians 2) turned humility into a positive quality. And from his leadership, we can see that the servant leader is the one who has the greatest impact. He has inspired millions down the centuries and has has more followers around the globe today than any person in history (quite a leader!). Philippians 2 says he’ll one day be revealed as the one with the highest rank in the universe.
Hopefully all this gives you ample motivation to pursue humility in life and business.