Eileen McDargh

The Down-and-Dirty Truth about Humility (Eileen McDargh)

Winning Well Connection Reflection

I first met Eileen when a mutual friend said “You two should really know one another,” and she was right. Eileen has a warm and generous spirit and is an amazing role model of confident humility. 

Before you throw up your hands in horror, consider the root of the word “humility.” The term comes from the Latin humilitas, which may be translated as “humble,” but also as “grounded,” or “from the earth,” since it derives from humus (earth). Put your hands into rich humus, that dark soil that is the incubator for plant life. Your hands will emerge dirty and your knees probably dusty from getting down on the ground. However, if properly tended, you might have created a garden of bountiful flowers, a vine that produces wine, or a tree that bears fruit.

Winning well with others, creating an organization that thrives just like that garden, requires humility—a trait that is impossible if a manager looks down rather than gets down with team members, colleagues, and associates. Sadly, we see far too many examples of ego-filled executives in both public and private sectors who claim to have all the answers. That position threatens the resiliency and staying power of the executive, in fact, of the organization.

So the question becomes: “Can humility be developed?” The answer: perhaps.

My colleague Bill Treasurer asserts that it will take a “leadership kick in the ass:” a failure, a demotion, a serious downturn, or other significant loss. Even with that, some so-called leaders have such emotional insecurity and fragile egos that any “failure” will be recast as blame on someone or something else.

Click on the image to learn more about Eileen’s book.

Let us instead turn a light on you—a leader who is part of this symposium because you believe in growing your skill. That simple belief loosens the soil for proactive steps that we all can take to develop and strengthen humility.

  1. Think of 2 or 3 challenges from your past life. What personal strengths did you use AND what were your personal weaknesses? Were these weaknesses based on lack of knowledge, skill, faulty information? If you were to encounter those challenges again, whom could you turn to in order to create a better outcome? What’s stopping you right now, from developing those relationships? In the heat of the moment, it will be too late to gather support around you if you haven’t already been growing it.
  2. Create a sounding board of 2 or 3 “critical lovers.” Lovers are those people who never give you straight feedback. You are perfect in their eyes, or they pretend you are perfect. Maybe they are the “suck-up” kinda folks. Criticizers are those who find that everything you do or say is wrong. These folks are demoralizing and dangerous. What you want are “critical lovers.” These are people who care about you enough to be straight-forward about what they see. They will call you on your behavior and, at the same time, offer helpful advice.
  3. Practice reflective listening. We all hear but few people are skilled in listening. Learning to carefully listen is akin to learning how to play a musical instrument. Practice. Ask a question and then carefully listen for both content AND intent. Content is the words. Intent is the emotions behind the words. Learn how to ask clarifying and reflective questions. Practice. As is written in the Book of Proverbs: “Seek first to understand rather than be understood.”
  4. Find a Yoda. Yoda was a legendary Jedi Master (Star Wars) and stronger than most in his connection with the Force. Small in size but wise and powerful, he trained Jedi for over 800 years. Yoda is a metaphor for a person who seems wise—often wise beyond their years. My first-born daughter is my Yoda. She offers insights that I need and yes, it takes humility to admit that age does not guarantee wisdom.
  5. Realize that lost is a place. Humility is developed in coming to grips with the fact that there are times in our life when we do not know where to turn. We feel small, insecure, frightened, and possibly alone. I wrote my last book, Your Resiliency GPS, because I needed to find answers when death altered my world.

I humbly thank you for taking the time to read this. Your thoughts are always welcome.

Winning Well Reflection

As achievement-oriented entrepreneurs who are often our toughest critics, Eileen’s thoughts about how humility resonate strongly with us. All of us can do with more self-compassion. Her invitation to consider that ‘lost is a place’ helps leaders to release the need to have all the answers and dictate direction, to “trust the trenches”, and include the team in critical questions and answers.



Posted in Winning Well International Symposium and tagged , .

David Dye

Author and international keynote speaker David Dye gives leaders the roadmap they need to transform results without losing their soul (or mind) in the process. He gets it because he’s been there: a former executive and elected official, David has over two decades of experience leading teams and building organizations. He is President of Let's Grow Leaders and the award-winning author of several books: Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates (Harper Collins Summer 2020), Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak. - a book for readers of all ages about courage, influence, and hope.

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