Justin Ricklefs


Humility as Strength, Not Aww Shucks

Humility isn’t a word we talk about a ton in business circles.  It sounds weak.  Or that you might get walked on.

Humility isn’t a word we lead with on our resume or our LinkedIn profile.  And if you are humble, you certainly don’t broadcast it by saying “I’m the humblest guy you know”.  By definition, that makes one not humble.

True humility isn’t this aww shucks mentality that makes the recipient of praise look at the ground and defer attention.  That’s actually false humility, an attempt by the individual to gain more praise.

Play out this scenario with me.  You’re in a staff meeting after completing a major project.  The project lead walks into the full conference room and begins the meeting.  She starts by looking directly at you and says, “Thank you for going above and beyond with Project Whatever.  Your leadership, decisions and execution were fantastic.  Well done.”

The entire room looks at you for your reaction.  You look down at your iPad on the table, avoid direct eye contact and say “No big deal, part of my job.  Couldn’t have done it without the team.”  At first glance, that seems humble.  But it’s not.  It’s an attempt to have others come up later and say “no really man, thanks for your leadership, great job.”

Imagine the difference in the above scenario if you looked the Project Lead in the eye and responded with “Thank you.  I appreciate the feedback.  The team executed the plan almost flawlessly, and we were all grateful to contribute.”  It’s an entirely different posture.  That’s humility.

You didn’t respond with boasting, self-congratulation or posturing but you also didn’t minimize your contributions.  Further, you brought your team into the mix and increased your equity and loyalty with them.

This isn’t a skill that develops overnight, but over the long haul, it’s worth it.  Start paying attention to how you respond, look around at the leaders on each end of the spectrum, and you will begin to grow in humility.

Humility is incredibly attractive, contagious and even strong.

If we’re boasting and making it all about us when praise comes, we need to stop.  But we also need to stop if we’re taking the aww shucks route.


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