31 Mar #062 – Integriosity – RENEW—Keep First Things First—Humility–A “HOW” of Loving Others
ESSENCE: The last of the four “first things” embedded in Integriosity® is Humility, and it is the key to understanding the “HOW” of the other three “first things”, including Love. Humility in Loving Others flows from knowing who we are in relation to other people. By embracing Imago Dei, Humility leads us to treat others with dignity, respect and kindness because of WHO they are. Humility also allows us to Love Others by showing grace for their mistakes by being honest about WHO we are–recognizing the IMPERFECTION in our own humanity. Humility by leaders in Loving Others is incredibly important to an organization because it unleashes the unique contributions each person can make to the organization, but Humility by leaders in Loving Others is also incredibility difficult. Although difficult, Humility by leaders in Loving Others is one of the key ingredients necessary for an organization to faithfully “do right” through “business a better way”.
We have been exploring the implications for work and business of several first principles embedded in Integriosity®, including Love (posts #053-#059), and in post #060 we introduced the fourth of the first principles embedded in Integriosity—Humility. We believe the two are linked, with Humility being a “HOW” of Loving Others. Humility in Loving Others flows from knowing who we are in relation to other people.
Humility – A “How” of Loving Others
The link between Humility and Loving Others can be seen in Philippians 2:3:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Humility Based on How We See Others. Humility sheds light on the “HOW” of Loving Others by focusing us on the “WHY” behind our actions. Humility requires us to see the value in other people, which should lead us to treat them with dignity, respect and kindness because of WHO they are. It’s roots must be in understanding and embracing Imago Dei–that all people are created in the image of God as “very good” (we explored the importance of Imago Dei to faithfully “doing right” in post #47). Without Humility, our “love” and “kindness” may be born of our own ambitions and desires and be tools of manipulation rather than gestures of Loving Others.
The importance of the WHY behind the actions of a leader and an organization has been a theme running through many of our posts. Loving Others from the wrong motivations is the difference between “business as usual” and “business a better way”. It is the difference between treating people well because you have determined that “kindness” is good for the bottom line and treating people well because you recognize the importance of the commandment to “love your neighbor” and you recognize the need to Humanize, Beautify and Glorify. It is the difference between the ancient path of “business a better way” and the “faith as usual” Side Road of Prosperitizing, which may look faith-driven on the surface but is actually “business as usual” at its heart.
Humility Based on How We See Ourselves. Humility in Loving Others also flows from understanding WHO we are–imperfect humans who are in no position to judge others for their imperfections. Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest:
The greatest characteristic of a saint is humility, as evidenced by being able to say honestly and humbly, “Yes, all those, as well as other evils, would have been exhibited in me if it were not for the grace of God. Therefore, I have no right to judge.
Humility allows us to Love Others by showing grace for their mistakes by being honest about ourselves–recognizing the IMPERFECTION in our own humanity. Wm. Paul Young summed it up when he wrote:
Pride is a sin because it is a denial of being human. Humility is always a celebration of something essentially human.
But Humility in Loving Others also requires us to understand the BEAUTY of our own humanity. In teaching a class on humility at Harvard College, Clayton Christensen recognized the importance of self-esteem to being able to exhibit humility:
I asked all the students to describe the most humble person they knew. One characteristic of these humble people stood out: They had a high level of self-esteem. They knew who they were, and they felt good about who they were. . . . Generally, you can be humble only if you feel really good about yourself—and you want to help those around you feel really good about themselves, too. When we see people acting in an abusive, arrogant, or demeaning manner toward others, their behavior almost always is a symptom of their lack of self-esteem. They need to put someone else down to feel good about themselves.
Pride is a sin because it is a denial of being human. Humility is always a celebration of something essentially human. (Wm. Paul Young)
The Incredible Importance of Humility for Leaders of Organizations
For a leader of an organization, Humility in Loving Others is critical because it permits the leader to learn from the people they lead and to unlock the God-given productivity and creativity of those people. Humility in Loving Others allows a leader to recognize that they do not have all the answers and to unleash and embrace the unique contributions each person offers, which enriches the leader, the organization and its people. Humility allows the leader to Love Others by creating an environment of Shalom that Humanizes them! Here are a few examples of how others have described this dynamic.
Michael Stallard: Voice exists when everyone in an organization seeks the ideas and opinions of others, shares their opinions honestly, and safeguards relational connections. In a culture where voice exists, decision makers have the humility to know that they don’t have a monopoly on good ideas, and they need to seek and consider the opinions and ideas of others in order to make the best decisions.
Os Hillman: When we believe that we know all we need to know, we are in a dangerous place. God has placed men and women in the Body of Christ who have had different experiences and gifts that can be helpful in our own spiritual pilgrimages. It requires humility of heart to realize that we can learn from others.
Clayton Christensen: It’s crucial to take a sense of humility into the world. By the time you make it to a top graduate school, almost all your learning has come from people who are smarter and more experienced than you: parents, teachers, bosses. But once you’ve finished at Harvard Business School or any other top academic institution, the vast majority of people you’ll interact with on a day-to-day basis may not be smarter than you. And if your attitude is that only smarter people have something to teach you, your learning opportunities will be very limited. But if you have a humble eagerness to learn something from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited.
The Incredible Challenge of Humility for Leaders of Organizations
Humility may be a key to the “HOW” of genuinely Loving Others, but Humility presents a particular challenge to leaders of organizations, because it is contrary to what our secular culture (and even our “faith as usual” culture) elevates and rewards. The incredible challenge of being humbly counter-cultural as a leader has been recognized by many commentators. On the one hand, the leader is often treated like a celebrity, and on the other, they must humbly put others first. Here are just a few quotes addressing this paradox:
Jim Collins: Good-to-great transformations don’t happen without Level 5 leaders at the helm. They just don’t. Our discovery of Level 5 leadership is counterintuitive. Indeed, it is countercultural. People generally assume that transforming companies from good to great requires larger-than-life leaders—big personalities like Iacocca, Dunlap, Welch, and Gault, who make headlines and become celebrities.
James Hunter: To the extent that Christians exercise leadership, then, they face an unavoidable paradox between pursuing faithful presence and the social consequences of achievement; between leadership and an elitism that all too often comes with it. The paradox is that all Christians are called to a life of humility, of placing others’ interests ahead of their own, of attending to the needs of “the least among us.” Yet leadership inevitably puts all in relative positions of influence and advantage. There is no way around this paradox and it is especially acute the more social influence one has.
SPOILER ALERT: In the third step of Integriosity–RE-ALIGN–one of the five critical ingredients for execution is Intentional Leaders, and one of the necessary characteristics of an Intentional Leader is the willingness and ability to embrace serving people as the WHY of the organization. An attitude of service requires Humility.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): When I think about Humility in Loving Others, I think about “Ron”. Ron was a homeless man living on the streets of New York City–his spot was midway on 47th Street between Madison and Fifth. Each day I would come out of the North entrance of Grand Central to walk to work. I followed the traffic lights, and if they led me past Ron, I would always give him a dollar. I felt good about myself for doing this. One day in a New Canaan Society Energy Group (a small group of men who get together without an agenda or content and share life confidentially–the triumphs and the struggles–and pray for each other) I proudly mentioned my routine with Ron. One of the men in the group affirmed me and then asked “what’s his name?”. BAM!! I had no idea.
My gestures of kindness to Ron were not about Ron–they were about Paul–my WHY was not really about Loving Others. No Humility; No Loving Others. I was not seeing Ron through the lens of Imago Dei, and I was not seeing Paul through the lens of the brokenness I shared in that confidential group (perhaps it made my own brokenness easier to accept by seeing myself as somehow “better than” Ron). The next day I walked down 47th Street I stopped, squatted down, looked Ron in the eye, introduced myself and asked him his name. Once he got past the initial shock of someone actually caring and showing kindness beyond throwing money in a box without eye contact, he told me it was “Ron”. I told him there was a group of men who were praying for him and asked if there was something specific for which we could pray. He thought for a moment and said “just a better situation I guess”. Each day after that, I stopped and said “Good morning Ron” to the fellow human–the fellow child of God–sitting on the sidewalk.
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Photo Credit: Original photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash (photo cropped)