Norton: Humility, the lost character trait of success |

Norton: Humility, the lost character trait of success

While working with one of our clients, I had the opportunity to observe an interaction between a leader and someone on their team. We had all been working on a project that spanned several months, and the leader was an integral part of making the project a huge success as they battled behind the scenes removing roadblocks, pushing decisions through and advancing timelines.

When it was announced that the project was finished and considered a huge success, the leader was asked to share a few words on an all-company meeting. As she began to talk about the project, she started by naming each and every person that contributed to the success that the team had achieved. Not only did she mention everyone by name, but she also included something special about everyone’s contribution. She even went as far as saying she played a very small role, if any role at all.

In a world where many strive for attention or are OK with receiving the accolades for the hard work of the people around them or on their team, it was so refreshing to witness such humility. You can probably guess that she has a very loyal team with hardly any turnover at all.

Humility isn’t only about giving others the proper credit, it’s also being humble enough to admit when we have made mistakes. Now just as some like to receive the accolades and take credit for work they did not do, there are some people who refuse to admit their mistakes, instead finding a way to blame others. And just as the leader described above who developed a loyal following, the leader who takes the credit and who shifts the blame on others will soon find themselves with no one left to lead.

I love this quote by Ezra Taft Benson, “With pride, there are many curses. With humility, there comes many blessings.” Pride can be a dangerous thing. When it is about the satisfaction we feel when we have achieved a goal or realized a dream, that can be inspiring. It becomes dangerous when it leads to egotistical and narcissistic behavior. I heard it said that egotism is the only disease that makes everyone else sick except the person carrying the disease.

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We are leaders in some way, even if it means we are leading ourselves for now. There are many traits that today’s leader must try and master as they grow personally and/or professionally. Leading with character, empathy, integrity, honesty, transparency, vulnerability, a servant’s heart, courage, respect, and humility, just to name a few. Again, in a “me” centered world, humility shows up last or sometimes not at all. Whether we are leading at home, at work, in our community or in our house of worship, humility shows up when we start to live in a “we” centered world.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines humility as freedom from pride or arrogance: the quality or state of being humble. Where leaders or people striving for success sometimes make the mistake is that they believe they need to be seen as always being strong, showing their strength by being strong-willed. They confuse anything less with being seen as meek or weak. The reality is that some of the strongest leaders in history have also been the humblest.

Humility is not just a necessary quality of leadership, it is often an overlooked quality of success in whatever we endeavor to do. Successful salespeople show humility as they give their surrounding team credit for the sale. The humble spouse who gives credit to their better half. The teacher or coach who gives all the credit to the student or player for putting in all the hard work. The faithful who gives God all the credit, honor and glory for their blessings.

Life is so much easier when we live, work and love from a position of humility. As always, I would love to hear your story at And when we learn to live a humble life, putting pride aside to achieve lasting success, it really will be a better than good life. 

Michael Norton is an author, a personal and professional coach, consultant, trainer, encourager, and motivator of individuals and businesses, working with organizations and associations across multiple industries.

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