Humility and what we choose to ground us


“Bani Adam” ~ Sa’adi

This poem was written in 1250 and is inscribed on gates of the entrance to the United Nations building in New York.

Today what is on my mind is what we choose to both ground us in humility.

To me four traits I seek to grow for an in myself and also for leaders I choose to work with (see my #BeMoreYou page) as clients are to be:

  • Hungry
  • Humble
  • Brave
  • Open

I believe that a balance between these four traits creates a wonderful combination for #OpenLeadership.

As I note on my homepage:

“Command-and-control leadership is losing its grip. A new way of thinking is emerging: leadership that embraces change as constant, encourages individual thought, relies on intuition more than data, fluidity more than hierarchy, trust more than fear, and the common good more than profit.”

Humility is key to such #OpenLeadership, and a phrase such as: “I don’t know, what do you think” is that of a humble leader and one who, when they show belief in their people, creates the environment, together with the other of the four attributes, where you have a leader who others choose to follow.

So how do we stay humble in our leadership, what grounds us?

For me, the example of the ancient poetry above is one such way we can stay humble.

We live in a fast-paced modern world where it seems information is being produced so, so fast that, as I wrote about in my “unthinkable” series of articles at the start of my writing on this site, Moore’s law seems to apply in that information available to us doubles every eighteen months or so.

It feels to me that one element of the modern world is the hubristic tendency to believe we know all the answers, with this rapidly accelerating pace of generating data and information giving us an often misleading sense that this is the case.

We have so much data, so much information, but how much of that is distilled into knowledge and, truly, how little into any truly new wisdom?

Perhaps by looking back many hundreds of years to the ancient wisdom of poets from the Silk Road and the Far East, dating way before Western civilisations, we can have the humility to recognise how much ancient wisdom is still so, so relevant today.

The translation of that poem?:

The sons of Adam are limbs of each other,
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others,
You are unworthy to be called by the name of a Human

Again, this is ancient, from the Persian poet Sa’adi from 1250, and yet universal and timelessly powerful words to have at the entrance to the United Nations headquarters building in New York City.

For me, then, I love to look at learnings from poet-philosophers (and have written of many on this site from Rumi and other Sufis, to the Roman Stoics, to more modern poetry, as poetry does look to touch universal truths).

What grounds you in your own humility?



Also published on Medium.

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