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How to Exercise Humility - Leading in Your Twenties Series

We all want to follow leaders who exercise Humility. Yet when you see leadership failures, so many of those failures are the result of a leader's pride. The leader won't listen to another person's opinion. The leader refuses to admit they might be wrong. Or the leader is more interested in how they look to others than they are about doing what needs to be done. So how do you avoid becoming like those leaders?

Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series of 12 blogs written directly to the Twenty-Somethings. This is about you and your future. As you read these blogs, please share them with other people who want ideas on how to lead now and how to develop the Twenty-Something Leaders of our future.

"The greatest of faults, is to be conscious of none."

-Thomas Carlyle

The problem is many of us believe that we can not be humble and confident at the same time. Somehow in our culture, we have come to believe that Humility is a weakness and not a strength. We pay too much attention to the people who pound their chests and are always looking for the spotlight.

Humility is not is not a sign of weakness. It is a quiet declaration of strength.

Too many leaders or potential leaders are more concerned with their own careers than they are about who they become while they build those careers. I succumbed to that in my past. In fact, pride is probably the biggest battle I fight as I continuously try to become the Leader of Character I am meant to be.

The Leaders You Love to Follow Exercise Humility

When you think about your favorite leaders, they are not selfish. They are not more interested in looking good than they are in DOING good. They are willing to say through their words and actions, "It's not about me."

Andersons' 12 Word (or less) Definition of Humility

Believing and acting like "It's not about me."

Whether you have been promoted into leadership already or are aspiring to get into that position someday, the humble leader inspires others to follow. Isn't the person who believes and acts like "It's not about me.", both inside and outside the workplace, someone you trust?

Compare that to the person who is always looking out for themselves first. The person who consistently makes decisions with only themselves in mind is somebody you tend to keep at a distance. Trust dies when the other person's pride proves they are full of themselves.

How to Develop Humility

If you want to be a leader who exercises Humility, you have to believe and act in a way that truly demonstrates you aren't full of yourself. Are you willing to say:

  • "I blew it. It's my fault."

  • "I need some help."

  • "I am listening."

  • "I have room to grow."

Just like the other six Habits of Character we discuss in past and future blogs (Courage, Humility, Integrity, Selflessness, Duty, and Positivity), Humility takes practice. You must choose to be humble because pride is the default mechanism for most humans.

Therefore, you must make a conscious choice to exercise Humility until it becomes a habit. Over time, your choice to exercise Humility will become like muscle memory. You won't think about it. You will just believe and act like "It's not about me."

But until you get there, you must make daily choices to exercise Humility in the small things so you are ready for the bigger tests that life will throw at you. Humility, as with all the Habits of Character, is like a muscle. You have to exercise Humility in order to build Humility.

You have to DO what you want to BE. If you want to BE a humble Leader of Character that people want to follow, you have to DO what humble Leaders of Character DO.

So what does Humility look like if you are in your twenties and want to be prepared when it becomes time to lead? Here are some exercises that anyone can do to exercise Humility:

  • Make the other person the center of the conversation, not yourself.

  • Deflect praise to other people.

  • Listen more than you speak.

  • Open the door for other people whether they are young or old, male or female.

  • Admit when you are wrong.

  • Don't argue when someone points out a flaw. Look for the way you need to grow.

  • Laugh at yourself when you screw something up.

  • Don't worry about who gets the credit.

  • Ask your waiter/waitress their name and then use it.

  • Greet the person cleaning the bathrooms in a public building.

  • Look for ways to help other people look good instead of making yourself look good.

A leader who operates from a position of pride or entitlement may have compliant employees. But a Leader of Character who believes and acts like "It's not about me." will have committed followers.

Which leader do you want to be?


  • Why do you think Humility is so lacking in today's culture?

  • Who is a humble leader that you admire? Why?


Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.

Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.

To take the assessment use the QR code above or go to

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