#060 – Integriosity – RENEW—Keep First Things First—Humility–The Key to “HOW”

ESSENCE: The last of the four first principles embedded in Integriosity® is Humility, and it is the key to understanding the “HOW” of the other three “first things”–Righteousness, Love and Kingdom–and it is a key to Wisdom.  In fact, we believe leadership without Humility is antithetical to leading an organization to faithfully “do right”.  Humility is knowing who you are in relation to God’s creation and His plan, knowing who you are in relation to others, and knowing who you are in relation to God.  Such an understanding permits leadership in service to a bigger WHY of serving others.  It permits leading an organization to pursue “business a better way”.

For quite a few posts, we have been exploring the implications for work and business of several first principles embedded in Integriosity®:  Righteousness (posts #040-#044), Kingdom (posts #045-#052) and Love (posts #053-#058).  The last of the four first principles embedded in Integriosity is Humility.  It is a first principle and a “first thing” to “keep first”.  The words “humble” or “humility” come up in over 50 Biblical passages (in the ESV).

Humility – A First Principle

When talking about “Keeping First Things First”, Humility is clearly a “first thing”.  We see in Micah 6:8 that it is one of the three things God requires:

What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

At Integrous, we believe that Humility is the key to understanding the “HOW” of the other three “first things”–Righteousness, Love and Kingdom.  In the next several posts, we will explore how Humility is:

  • A “HOW of Righteousness.
  • A “HOW” of Loving others
  • A “HOW” of pursuing the Kingdom of God

If that is not enough, Proverbs 11:2 makes humility a KEY to Wisdom.

What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

What Is Humility?

Before launching into the next four posts on Humility, we want to explore what it is and isn’t.

  • Humility Is Knowing Who You Are.  We like how Jon Walker expressed Humility in his devotional Grace Creates:  “Authentic humility means I know who I am and my place in God’s plan. It means my position did not come from my own hands, but is a gift freely given from the one who holds me in his hands.”  This captures the three aspects of Humility we will explore in more detail:
    • Humility and Righteousness:  Knowing who we are in relation to God’s creation and His plan.
    • Humility and Love:  Knowing who we are in relation to others.
    • Humility and Kingdom:  Knowing who we are in relation to God.

Such an understanding permits leadership in service to a bigger WHY of serving others.  It permits leading an organization to pursue “business a better way”.

  • Humility Is Not a Lack of Confidence:  Sometimes people confuse Humility with weakness, meekness, shyness and a lack of self confidence.  The late Clay Christensen, a devout Mormon and distinguished author and Harvard Business School professor,  wrote:

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. We also decided that humility was defined not by self-deprecating behavior or attitudes but by the esteem with which you regard others.

  • Humility Is Important in Leadership:  Not only is Humility relevant to leading an organization, Jim Collins identified it as an ESSENTIAL trait in order for a leader to take a business from “good to great”.  Collins identified levels of leadership, with the highest being a Level 5 leader.  These are his extraordinary findings:

The most powerfully transformative executives possess a paradoxical mixture of personal humility and professional will.  According to our five-year research study, executives who possess this paradoxical combination of traits are catalysts for the statistically rare event of transforming a good company into a great one.  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.  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.

  • A Lack of Humility Is Contrary to Faithfully “Doing Right”:   The opposite of Humility is pride and arrogance (and we know that the truly original sin was Lucifer’s pride, which led to his fall).   Jim Collins points out that “celebrity” CEO’s do not have what it takes to lead an organization from “good to great”.  In his book, To Change the World, James Hunter discusses the “unavoidable paradox between pursuing faithful presence and the social consequence of achievement; between leadership and an elitism that all too often comes with it.”    Leadership without Humility is antithetical to leading an organization to faithfully “do right”.  In the very strong words of James Hunter:

[Faithful presence] is also the antithesis of celebrity, a model of leadership that many Christians in prominent positions have a very difficult time resisting. Celebrity is, in effect, based on an inflated brilliance, accomplishment, or spirituality generated and perpetuated by publicity. It is an artifice and, therefore, a type of fraud.  And so, whether leadership is expressed within the dynamics of celebrity or outright arrogance rooted in a sense of superiority, such leadership is artificial, unbiblical, organizationally unhealthy, inherently corrupting, and all too common in the Christian world—especially in the United States. Christianity needs to rediscover an alternative.

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):  Humility came into focus for me most recently in October 2018 when Rev. John Guest gave a talk to NCS New Canaan on October 5, 2018 titled “Humility: A Noble Disposition”.  Interestingly, I first met John when he was the Chapel speaker at Camp-of-the-Woods in Speculator, NY (a Christian family resort) in 2008 (our first summer at COTW).  John explained why “every man’s battle is pride” and then explored the genuine humility modeled by Jesus (as compared to the false humility we often see displayed by people–“not letting anyone know how great I think I am”).  I highly recommend listening to this talk. With his signature wit and charm, John shares the “humility” advice he gives to young couples about how to have a “great” marriage.  You can listen to his talk below.

Humility was finally added to the Integriosity model in 2019 (perhaps the delay was my own subconscious reluctance to face its importance and unpack the concept).

Humility: A Noble Disposition (John Guest - 10/5/18 - NCS New Canaan)

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