Joy in the Journey
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Joy in the Journey

Caution: Humility is a Key Ingredient

Leadership isn’t about you. Only genuine humility will keep it that way.

Fancy coffee drinks come in engineered paper cups with patented plastic lids holding your fancy coffee drink. You will often see a warning required by a company lawyer written on the cup, the lid, or both: “Caution, heat is a key ingredient.” You probably ignore the message because it’s obvious to you.

It’s slightly humorous, somewhat sarcastic way of saying “If you haven’t noticed, you are drinking hot coffee. If you you’re not careful and burn yourself, don’t sue us and say you weren’t warned.” It seems obvious, but apparently enough people are too distracted to realize they are about to cause unnecessary pain.

What would happen if leaders were required to carry a warning label that reminded them to use humility when interacting with other people? I often interview candidates for middle and executive level leaders for clients. As I listen, it’s clear that many are so distracted by all the noise and shiny objects of the job that they don’t realize they are causing unnecessary pain to employees, peers, and those they supposed to be serving.

We shouldn’t need a lawyer to require “Humility is a key ingredient to leading ” on our next video meeting screen to avoid getting sued or causing unnecessary drama. I’ve had the privilege to meet many wonderful leaders who are naturally humble and tend to bring out the best in their employees in all kinds of situations.

But for the rest of the people who are leaders in title only and regularly wound employees at random, I’m in favor of the warning label. It may spare a few people of unnecessary pain caused by mediocrity. Humble leaders learn things from their team that sparks better ideas and get better results.

Life is a team sport. Remember to lead with listening and learning from a humble heart.

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Paul Berggren

I help people listen and learn from each other. As President of Crown Global HR, I bring clarity to growing and hiring people.