The Sweet Rewards of Humility


Humility is costly, but there are incredible and often surprising rewards for leaders who recognize their own personal strengths and limitations while seeing and encouraging the greatness in others. Sometimes the ramifications of this timeless insight bring a smile.

Imagine a traditional, button-down, classy department store with the expected crew of nicely dressed, decorous department managers and floor workers. In the midst of this stable setting appears a freewheeling bohemian hippie throwback with an attitude!

While consulting with a large department store chain, I encountered such a situation with a particular store employee. The management team just did not respect this person because he did not fit the mold of the “perfect” floor salesperson. He dressed way too casually. He word his hair exceptionally long. His humor was caustic. He talked too loudly and joked too much. The only thing standing between him and a pink slip was the small matter of performance. He was positively brilliant at what he did!

His specialty was the children’s and teen’s clothing area where the kids (and the mom) loved him. To them, he was a funny, warm and highly entertaining friend, a trusted adviser in selecting the best and coolest clothes to wear. Because the customers understood this person’s intentions—he loved meeting kids on their level and serving them—his counter-cultural appearance and behavior didn’t matter much. As long as his creative approach and personality accomplished the mission, he deserved to be a hero of management, not a personnel headache.

This person was unique.

While this example may seem extreme, it illustrates the principle beautifully: A humble leader, who is not too full of self, has the capacity and good sense to allow others to sparkle and make a difference.

The sweet reward? Happy customers, increased sales, focus on the mission, an employee operating in their area of strength, creativity, innovation…did I say happy customers?

Are you as a leader open and willing to uniqueness and difference? Can you allow your “self” to step aside and humbly lead people to greatness in their strengths?


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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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