Faith and Humility in Leadership
A few months ago by a bunch of professionals and then a few days ago by a bunch of human resource practitioners, I was asked, “What makes any professional move from being good to great?”
The answers to such a question usually are ‘experience, character, courage, persistence, passion etc.’ My quick and candid response to the first time it was asked of me was ‘Faith and Humility.’ First their jaws dropped instantaneously and, as I began to defend my thesis their eyes kinda’ glazed over. But people generally being nice as they usually are, especially here in the Philippines, they all smiled and nodded their approval. In my gut, I knew that I hadn’t sold my idea well enough. But the second time the same scenario occurred, I got several ’Whoas’ and ‘Awesomes’ to my defense of ‘Faith and Humility’ to move from being good to great.
Now, the why and the how of faith and humility in business and life:
First when I say faith, I mean trust and acceptance mixed with some loyalty. Second, I mean faith in oneself, faith in your perspectives and faith in your deeper intentions. And, by saying this I am also not excluding your faith in any structured form of religion. The neuropsychological benefits of all kinds of faith are amazingly similar.
The faith I am talking about is not surrendering of reason and logic and neither the blind acceptance of reason and logic. I am talking about the power of goodness hammered into us, into humanity which constantly yanks us towards our higher self. Yes, the synonyms can be trust and confidence in self. Yet, the faith I am referring to hails and applauds a much larger system, intelligence and consciousness.
A business leader that carries this special chip on his shoulder doesn’t just increase the chances of his own success but also inspires the growth and evolution of others around him. A quick story that comes to my mind is that of salesman from a small town was out beating the streets of New York seeking work for a small graphic-designing business. Three days of being turned away and offered no work his morale took a plunge. He began to lose ‘faith’ in himself and in the system. At the end of the third day, his wife who also worked in the business said to him on the phone, “Honey, I just made it big in our small town lotto this afternoon, so worry not about bringing home any business. We are rich!” The next morning, back on the streets of New York, very strangely, business did not just pick up for him but it began to pour in. Back at home on Friday night with a load of work in his bag as he hugged his wife, she told him that she really hadn’t won any lotto and she’d just said that to cheer him up.
I admit that her approach may not have been all too right but it did act like a placebo to attitude delivered positive results. His faith in himself, in the system and the world had jacked up and so did his business.
My way to reach such a state is that before every important interaction, I step away from the hustle and bustle of life, find a quiet place and pause. In that moment, I ask myself: Do you have faith in yourself? Have you done all the homework that needs to have been done? Will your agenda create value for others? Do you care for the people you are going to deal with? Are your objectives more selfless than selfish? Do you have faith in the system and in the world?
When I get a ‘yes’ as an answer to all of them, I open the door and step in and miracles happen. That is my way to faith. That is my first step I take when I do not have a glimpse of the whole staircase.
Now for the ‘why and how of humility’ for moving from good to greatness in life and at work:
One of the best explanations of it was probably a quote on the walls of my daughter’s school, Colegio San Agustin, in the Philippines. I cannot remember the exact words but the gist of it was that the moment your mind highlights for you, or even others, that you are being humble then all humility flies out of the window. If and when you say you are being humble, you are not.
Yes, the moment you make a claim towards it then it fizzles and turns into the monstrosity of overconfidence, pride and arrogance.
Thus, humility needs to be exercised quietly and with strength towards the very same reasons from which you gather and accumulate your faith. So, not just before, during and even after of all interactions and interventions the questions I ask of myself in quiet moments are: Are you even-minded and true about you and your achievements? Do you have quiet confidence in the homework you have done and are you ready for it to not serve you? Are you prepared to be rejected, turned down and left out? Are you open to the possibilities of failure? Will you be able to accept that however selfless your ideas and intentions are they may still be regarded as self-serving by others?
These questions serve me well in failure and success. I am not claiming that I always succeed at practicing these habits. I am not claiming that these practices will guarantee growth and will catapult us into everlasting greatness. I am saying that in my observations and study of leaders these habits are a huge part of their natural traits. Some of my favorite teachers, consultants and leaders of faith straddle these two paths of faith and humility to move from being good to becoming great.
P.S. Catch me at Dubai, HR Summit in November