We have been fooled by marketing slogans and the Masters of the Universe who created them for our entire lives. I don’t say this in an evil way. All our lives, marketing catchphrases and the Masters of the Universe who invented them have deceived us. I don’t blame them. It’s a way to influence others to take action, believe in causes, and raise energy and emotion in others. We all do it, especially if we are leaders.
One of those marketing slogans, or what I call leadership myths, is that leaders should be humble. “We should lead with humility.” As often as I hear about how leaders are humble, I also hear from those leaders for direction regarding “feeling like an imposter.”
Have you heard of “imposter syndrome?” It’s when you doubt your skills, accomplishments, and talents– you feel you don’t belong in the role that you’re in. You have an underlying anxiety or fear of being exposed as a fraud. You’re unqualified and about to be kicked to the curb. (I know I’ve been there.)
In my opinion, this is an entirely fictional syndrome. It doesn’t exist (except in the mind of the “imposter.”) Have you ever looked at a leader and said, “They are an imposter.”?
No! You may think they are incompetent or don’t deserve to be in the role, but “imposter?” I don’t think you’d use that word. So, why do folks continue to recycle that phrase?
Whether you are humble or not, whether you are an imposter or not, as a leader, you are going to get criticized. Heck, as a human being, you’re going to get criticized. But just because someone disagrees with you or believes you are in the wrong role doesn’t diminish your value as a human soul. You are priceless!
Now, if you believe that you should be humble and practice humility, THAT is what will cause you to feel like an imposter, lower your self-confidence, and diminish your value.
It doesn’t help you step into the role. Rather, it causes you to want to slide out of it.
Oh, sure, you’ve heard that humility is a good trait to have. Well, what if whoever told you that was wrong? Let’s look at the definitions of humble and humility.
• Humble (adj): having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience, etc.: low in rank, importance, status, quality, etc.; lowly:
• Humble (verb): to lower in condition, importance, or dignity; abase: to destroy the independence, power, or will of.
• Humble (Adj): not proud or haughty: not arrogant or assertive: reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission: ranking low in a hierarchy or scale: insignificant, unpretentious
• Humble (Verb): to destroy the power, independence, or prestige of
Humility means “the state of being humble.” Both humility and humble originate in the Latin word humilis, meaning “low.”
Regardless of the role you are playing; your job isn’t to lower yourself or to be low. It’s precisely the opposite. You want to embrace the role and stand tall. It is believing that you can do it or at least believing in your abilities to figure it out. Besides, you lowering yourself doesn’t raise up others.
What would happen to your life and leadership if you stopped being humble?
Don’t get me wrong… I don’t mean that you should do a complete 180° turn and be a pompous jacka$$. I also don’t mean that you can’t be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is the willingness to show emotion or to allow one’s weaknesses to be seen or known. It comes from the Latin word meaning “to wound.” When we are vulnerable, we are open to being wounded. In that openness, I hope there is also the knowledge that the wound won’t kill you but only make you stronger. It is from vulnerability and wounds that we grow.
Being vulnerable does NOT mean that you have to lower yourself.
Instead, it means that you can be real, genuine, and authentic in your abilities, competencies, and actions so you can raise yourself up from the knowledge and experience you gain.
Let’s start by getting rid of “In my humble opinion.” Just give us your opinion. We can handle it without your humility. Let’s teach others how to have courage and stand up even in the face of opposition, knowing that their ideas aren’t WHO they are but simply what they believe at this point in time.
In my opinion, I don’t want a humble leader. I don’t want to follow a humble leader who is lowering or acting as though they are insignificant. I want a courageous, inspiring, authentic one who is OK being themselves and leading others to more extraordinary achievements by creating more incredible value.
Are you willing to put your humility aside and step up? This world needs you.
[Stay tuned for more leadership myths that may be impacting you in upcoming articles.]