There’s No I in Humble


You’ve heard the popular advice often given to young people on the field or in the gym, “there’s no I in team”, as coaches encourage passing the ball and working together to achieve a goal. At the root of this advice is the truth that there is also no “I” in humble.

Great leadership requires great humility. When we think of great leaders, we might initially hold up the charismatic, high-ego driver that seemingly gets results. But stop and reflect…who are the great leaders in your life? When I pause and reflect a little more, leaders characterized by humility come to mind as the great, influential leaders in my life. This was true as well in the research that led Jim Collins to explain the leaders that turned good companies into great companies as those who blend “extreme personal humility with intense professional will” (Good to Great, p. 21).

There is no “I” in humble, because “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less” as C.S. Lewis is credited with saying. As a result, great leaders are characterized by others focus:

  • Being empathetic and caring for others
  • Seeking and listening to others’ perspectives
  • Stepping back and empowering others to learn, develop, and lead
  • Constantly pursuing knowledge and learning from others
  • Transparency and vulnerability, as they share knowledge and experiences to help others

Humility can be perceived as weakness, but it is really a powerful leadership strength! Humility paired with a proper perspective and quiet confidence can overcome great odds. Is your leadership characterized by humility? Reflect on your actions, your thoughts, and your language. Are those thoughts, actions, and words characterized by “me” and “my” or by “we” and “our”? Strive to put on clothes of humility in your leadership journey by intentionally practicing those characteristics noted above and by purposefully shifting your mindset to focus on others.

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Joel Van Egdom, Interstates Director of Strategy and Support, Operations