Monday, December 07, 2009

Humility and Submission aren't Four Letter Words

I've been thinking a lot about how our culture is changing.  It appears to me that some very positive change has come in the last few years.  I'm not talking about a forced increase in creativity and entrepreneurialism. Though I love creativity and entrepreneurialism. I'm talking about a shift that's been taking place for a while.  Over the last 30-40 years our culture has been about hype.  Everything has been commercialized to the point that in some ways we all started to believe it truly was all about "me."  But the pendulum has begun to swing in a new direction.  No, not back to where we were 50 years ago.  As much as some harken back to "the good ol' days," we couldn't go back if we wanted because of the influence and effect the last 3 plus decades has had on the way we think & act, and the way the world works.  What is happening is a return to the concepts of humility and submission.  But in a new way. Let me explain my thinking. 

Years ago I heard what I believe to be the perfect definition of humility: it's not thinking less of yourself, it's just thinking of yourself less.  There is a new attitude toward helping others, toward protecting the planet, toward service in general.  So much so that Corporate America (as it slowly starts to "get it") spends billions on causes and cause marketing each year.  Whether this is done from the heart or because it's the new cool thing to do or just a way to sell more stuff - the trend toward service is real. 

Now for the more controversial subject of submission.  Again, words mean things so let me define submission.  I'm not talking about the slavery type of submission.  Or totally sacrificing your identity.  Submission is when you are willing to make your will fit the will of a greater cause.  It requires humility, but more than that it requires courage.  For example, you have two opportunities, one to make a large amount of money doing something that you love doing but has little if any social impact and another to make a huge difference by joining forces with an organization that has a massive social impact but the money is less than compelling.  What do you do?  I believe there has been a shift in how a growing percentage of the population answers the question. 

Social impact has become a huge driver in career choice.  People are submitting to what they see as the "greater good" (whether it actually is or not is a subject for another post).  However, the interesting thing is that many are finding a third option, often by accident.  The whole concept of the social entrepreneur.  Doing good to do well.  Making more money by focusing on the social impact.  This is the American Way.  The concept introduced at the beginning of our nation - "Self-Interest Rightly Understood." 

So, humility and submission don't have to mean beating yourself up, taking sacred vows of poverty and self-denial.  Individuality can still be strong in these trends toward humility and submission.  It's actually a requirement to be the best leader you can be.  Jim Collins called this a Level V leader.  The type of leader that can take an organization from Good to Great.  "Compared to high-profile leaders with big personalities who make headlines and become celebrities, the good-to-great leaders...[are] self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy - these leaders are a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.  They are more like Lincoln and Socrates than Patton or Caesar." (pgs. 12-13, Good to Great by Jim Collins)

Selfishness and greed aren't going away but the good news is they are no longer the ideal.  We have the opportunity to do great things through real relationships that have an impact that ripples out beyond ourselves.  What a great time to be alive!

New Perspectives = New Value



Gary said...

I'm impressed.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I was going to write something similar. Will check this blog more often I think.

Anonymous said...

I always motivated by you, your views and attitude, again, appreciate for this nice post.

- Murk

Anonymous said...

This is just what i need!Thanks!