Leading Blog






04.14.20

The 3 Types of Humility That Impact Your Leadership

3 Types of Humility

IN 2016, Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria addressed the graduating class and spoke of three H’s: Hope, Humility, and Honor. These three qualities are reflected in leaders who make a difference.

In speaking about hope, he turned to the example of explorer Ernest Shackleton, who, in a seemingly hopeless situation, “continued not only to remain optimistic himself, but he continually instilled hope in his crewmates. He refused to let them give in to the despair that logic would lead them to feel. He did not allow them to give up, either emotionally or physically.”

He said we should think of honor as a verb. It’s an action. It’s about “making and keeping commitments.”

What stood out for me was the way he broke down humility into three types: Intellectual, Moral, and Personal. It gives one a multi-faceted picture of humility and how we might cultivate this quality more fully in our lives.

Intellectual humility is the virtue of knowing that no matter how smart you think you are, you can always learn something from other people. Harvard Business School is an ideal training ground for intellectual humility: While all of you are extraordinarily smart, you have now spent two years in classes where you have inevitably learned from someone else in the room—and this is an attitude you should continue to exhibit throughout your careers.

Moral humility is the awareness that no matter how self-assured you are about your moral compass, you are vulnerable, under stress or in certain contexts, to losing your way. Remember the Milgram experiments you studied in your Leadership and Accountability class. Although we would like to believe that we are the one who would be able to resist an authority figure’s instructions to deliver electrical shocks to innocent people—remind yourself that most people, just like us, with an equal commitment to decency, succumbed in this situation. It’s a lesson you should keep in mind, in your professional and personal lives.

Personal humility is knowing that it is so much better to let others talk about your accomplishments than to talk about them yourself.

Personal humility is becoming all-too-rare, as social media breeds an attitude of "look at me!" Now, I have nothing against posting photos of a joyous occasion like today, but it’s important to keep in mind that even when you’re not taking selfies, people are watching. You will all become leaders of teams and organizations, and as you assume these roles, people will be watching closely for signs of hubris and self-importance. This is never an attractive quality. Consider how frequently the tabloids are filled with stories about some self-entitled person shouting at someone those six words that can quickly ruin a reputation: “Don’t you know who I am?” So, no matter what you accomplish—and we all hope it will be a great deal—always remain humble.

How might we see our own lives differently from these three perspectives on humility?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:11 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Leadership Development



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