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Our Society Needs More Humble Leaders

Pride divides while Humility unites.

“Yes, but….” When someone starts with that phrase, it is not a signal that they understand what we just said. It is actually telling us the exact opposite. When they start with “Yes, but…” they actually mean, “Now that you are done, it is my turn to speak. I really didn’t listen.” It is pride at its divisive worst. I have come to believe that pride acts like the ear plugs I used to wear on the firing range in the military. We would take little black or orange conical pieces of foam, roll them between our fingers and shove them as deep into our ears as possible. This was hearing protection. We were protecting ourselves from future hearing loss. Many of us do the exact same thing when we start with the phrase, “Yes, but….” That phrase signals that we have our hearing protection in place. But, we aren't protecting our eardrums, we are protecting our pride. It’s pride because without that hearing protection, we might actually have to admit the other person has a valid point. We might actually look indecisive. We might actually find out we didn’t understand as much about the subject as we thought. But worst of all, other people might find that out as well. Our willingness to listen to another person is a window into our character. It takes Humility to listen to someone. I am not talking about just waiting for our turn to talk. I am talking about truly working to understand another person’s position.

In Escondido, California Chief of Police Edward Varso has blocked off one day each week to be out in the community. This Police Chief serves with the officers he leads in order to listen and understand the perspectives of those officers and the people in his community.

In Seguin, Texas, city leaders and leaders of the black community and Black Lives Matter organizers met together to not just present their cases, but to listen and understand. Chief of Police, Terry Nichols says it was invaluable for both sides to stop and pay attention. He heard the stories of the black community, and they saw the data about stops and arrests in their city. When it was over, both sides realized they were a lot closer to solutions than they would have predicted prior to their meeting.

Our society needs more people with the Humility to listen more and talk less. The division in our society can be seen between political parties, between races, between law enforcement and communities or even within families. Both sides are sure their positions on important issues are right. Both sides can argue their position with authority. But our society is divided because pride is in the way, and we aren’t listening.

“Yes, but…”

● Is usually the end of a real give and take conversation.

● Is the time we signal our turn to talk.

● Is the moment we tell them we didn’t listen, but we are still sure we are right.

● Is the end of trust.

Society needs more people to stop and work at listening to people who might come from a different perspective. Instead of starting from a position of trying to prove we are right. Maybe we should start from a position of trying to understand. That is the Humility that will bring us together versus the pride which is currently dividing us.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • What would happen in your sphere of influence if people took more time to listen to each other?

  • What big societal problems could be solved if both sides listened more?


Making a shift towards taking responsibility and living with Humility is a lifelong journey. We want to partner with you as you practice the habit of Humility daily, which is why we have created our Habits of Character Action Guides.

The Humility Action Guide offers you a month of daily, interactive training complete with a daily reading, dig deep questions, weekly processing guides and instructions on how to use the guide both individually and with your team. The Humility Action Guide is now available here.

We are behind you, championing for you, your teams and your organizations as you become the leader you wish you had. We want to come alongside you as you grow to confidently answer “yes” to the question, “Would you follow you?”

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