Excellence Demands Humility

by Heather Hughes on June 23, 2015

The greatest temptation of all is arrogance – arrogance of knowledge, arrogance of expertise, arrogance of perceived superiority. Arrogance is embedded in the desire to control.

I am discovering that the greatest freedom of all is found in humility — humility to learn, humility to grow, humility to stand aside and watch others flourish in the realm of their own locus of control.

What do great leaders actually do in leading others to one-by-one wins, to face and conquer difficult challenges, to get up and fight another round after hitting the mat? One thing they do is let go. It’s one thing to say, “Hire people smarter than you, then get out of their way”, it’s altogether another thing to do it.

Like baseball players, in business we play the game almost every day. “You can’t win them all” is a reality we all experience. The difference between being good and becoming great is 1) how do you deal with loss and 2) which games do you win? Can you “bring it” when the chips are down or only perform when times are easy?

Back to humility. I contend this: Humility is the “secret sauce” of leaders who win more than they lose, and win most of the games that matter. Attracting and motivating people smarter than you is not easy. But for the perennial winner, it becomes almost natural.

If you want to witness excellence and know in part what it takes to be a winner, watch a Yankees’ Old-Timers’ Day ceremony. Listen to what the greats have to say about their so-called greatness. They mostly speak of others who brought them along their way, who taught them how to be winners. And, they recognize a power greater than themselves.

Willie Randolf
Former captain of the New York Yankees who won two World Series championships as a player and four as a coach under manager Joe Torre.

“You guys put me on your shoulders and carried me as a 21-year-old kid … you taught me how to be a Yankee and my honor goes to you man, you share this with me today.”

Mel Stottlemyre
The “ace of the Yankees pitching staff for 11 years” who went on to become the team’s pitching coach and help lead the team to four World Series championships.

“If I never get to come to another Old-Timers’ Game, I will take these memories that I have today, and I will start another baseball club, coaching up there whenever they need me.”

Teams need great leaders, but leaders need great humility to attract and motivate great teams, teams made up of individuals who together win the games that matter, the games that count.

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