Having a modest view of one's own importance, ability, or power - and instead being respectful and honoring of others.


Lack of humility is an easy way to get into trouble with people. It is important to admit mistakes and take the blame as a leader. A lack of humility may lead to ignoring important input from others. Lack of humility often shows up as a lack of cultural sensitivity coupled with an overemphasis on one’s personal views as being the correct views.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.Romans 12:3

Skilled Characteristics

  • Quiet

    Can get things done quietly without unnecessary noise

  • Admits

    Quickly admits one’s own flaws and mistakes

  • Comfortable

    Is talented at making others feel comfortable and valued

  • Honoring

    Helps others save face in difficult situations

  • Maximizer

    Maximizes the contribution of all – helping all people feel like their input is valuable

  • Encourages

    Encourages the expression of ideas and viewpoints from all people

  • Modest

    Is modest when talking about oneself

  • Respectful

    Demonstrates respect and appreciation for the views of others

“The foundation of humility is truth. The humble man sees himself as he is.”

– Henry Fairlie

Unskilled Characteristics

  • Loud

    Is loud, dominating, and very self-centered

  • Negative

    Speaks rudely to others – is mean or demeaning to others

  • Takes Credit

    Does not give credit to others – but instead takes the credit oneself

  • Closed

    Does not listen to the input of others

  • Self-Focus

    Frequently talks about and/or brags about oneself

  • Minimizes

    Speaks overly negatively about oneself in order to gain other’s pity or sympathy – or so that others will feel the need to say something positive about oneself

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

– Rick Warren

Causes of Weakness

  • Self-Centered

    Cares more about oneself than about others

  • Control

    Has a high need to dominate or be in control

  • Ambition

    Overly ambitious – having a high need to be considered ‘very talented’ at something

  • Self-Value

    Minimizes one’s belief or value in oneself

  • Arrogance

    Has a feeling of superiority of one’s own value, capability or importance

  • Insensitive

    Insensitive to the needs or feelings of others

  • Unaware

    Unaware of the impact of one’s words and behaviors on others

“Pride is concerned with WHO is right. Humility is concerned with WHAT is right.”

– Ezra T. Benson


Review the simple application steps below and choose 1 or 2 things you can do to spur yourself on to further growth.

  • Arrogance

    ARROGANCE: Request more feedback. Get feedback from your colleagues, direct reports, and leader, where respondents can remain anonymous. It is unlikely you will get useful data from people directly because they may not think you listen or it may have been painful for them to try to influence you in the past. Your goal should be to get to know how others see you.

  • Watch Your Nonverbals

    WATCH YOUR NON-VERBALS: People lacking humility look, talk, and act arrogantly. As you try to become more humble, you need to find out what your non-verbals are. All arrogant people do a series of things that can be viewed by a neutral party and judged to give off the signals of arrogance. i.e. facial expressions, body shifting (especially turning away), impatient finger or pencil tapping, false smile, tight lips, & looking away. Find out from a trusted friend what you do and try to eliminate those behaviors. The non-verbals are also culture specific. What shows a lack of humility in one culture may be different in another. Lacking in humility will block finding out how to act with sensitivity across cultures.

  • Talk Too Much?

    TALK TOO MUCH? Listen first and ask questions. Don’t be the first to offer answers, solutions, conclusions, statements, or commands. Give others a fair chance to have their say, participate, and provide input. Let others speak early. Let people finish. Try not to interrupt. Don’t finish other’s sentences. Ask clarifying questions. Restate the problem in your own words. Pause more often while speaking.

  • Read the Needs of Others

    READ THE NEEDS OF OTHERS: Observe others for their reactions to you and your style. Especially during the first three minutes of an important meeting, work to make the person or group comfortable with you before the agenda starts. Pick your pace, style, tone, timing, and tactics based upon an evaluation of what would work best in each culture.

  • Need Affirmation?

    NEED AFFIRMATION? Get your affirmation elsewhere – such as from God! Look for opportunities to encourage others – they will often respond by encouraging you.

  • Be Open and Approachable

    BE OPEN AND APPROACHABLE: Invite people to talk with you and then listen. You may have to persevere, endure some rejection and perhaps some angry or negative remarks in order to convince people you are truly open to their input.

  • Insensitive

    INSENSITIVE? Try to find out exactly why you are seen as insensitive. Talk to a mentor or someone you really trust will tell you the truth. It’s unlikely that people will tell you directly.

  • Lose Your Temper?

    LOSE YOUR TEMPER? Avoid instant and sharp reactions, jumping to conclusions, categorically dismissing what others say, or using inflammatory words. People may believe you think they’re stupid or ill-informed if you cause them to lose face in front of others. Instead of reacting, ask questions, invite people to disagree with you, present their arguments back to them, and let them save face no matter what.

  • Impatient

    IMPATIENT: Many insensitive people are very action oriented, results oriented, and very agenda driven. Take time to let others get more comfortable with you. Two-thirds of people need a little up-front time to adjust to the situation before getting down to work. Usually three minutes is sufficient. Ask informal questions such as ‘What did you do this weekend? How are the kids?’

  • Too Smart?

    TOO SMART? Switch to a teacher role—tell them how you think about an issue, don’t just tell people what to do. Tell them what you think the problem is, what questions need to be asked, and how you would go about finding out what you think some likely solutions might be. Invite their thinking. If you’re the expert and they aren’t, help them think better by showing them how you think.