The Power of Humility in the Workplace

+Lessons from Emma Stone, Robert Downey, Jr. and Da’Vine Joy.

Humility is like a silent undercurrent in the vast ocean of the workplace. It’s unassuming yet powerful, gentle yet transformative. C.S. Lewis once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” This quote elegantly encapsulates the essence of humility. It’s not about undermining your value but about elevating the value of those around you, creating a symphony of collaborative success rather than a solo of individual achievement.

What Is Humility?

At its core, humility is a grounded sense of self-awareness, a clear understanding of who we are, our strengths, and our limitations. It’s like looking into a mirror and seeing the actual reflection, not distorted by the lenses of ego or insecurity. A beautiful example is when a CEO openly credits their team for a project’s success, acknowledging their collective effort over personal accolades.

The term “humility” originates from the Latin word ‘humilis,’ meaning low or from the earth, suggesting a rootedness or groundedness in oneself and one’s abilities. It’s about maintaining a perspective that we are part of something larger than ourselves.

Sister Qualities: Empathy, Gratitude, and Respect

Humility doesn’t walk alone; its sisters accompany it: empathy, gratitude, and respect. Empathy allows us to connect with others, to feel what they feel, and to see what they see. Gratitude is about appreciating what we have, recognizing the contributions of others, and the fortune of our circumstances. Respect is the natural outcome of humility, acknowledging the value of others and their contributions. Together, these qualities forge a powerful alliance, creating an inclusive, collaborative, and genuinely connected work environment.

Oscar Winners Who Humbled Us

The recent Oscars included examples of humility alongside gratitude, acknowledgment of others, and celebration of shared achievements. In a collaborative industry, success is never an individual accomplishment but a collective triumph.

For instance, Emma Stone, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in “Poor Things,” expressed overwhelming emotions during her speech. She acknowledged her fellow nominees and the team’s collective effort behind the film, emphasizing the collaborative nature of cinematic success​​. Like business, in the film industry, no single achievement is truly solo but rather the result of a shared vision and effort.

Robert Downey Jr., who won Best Supporting Actor for “Oppenheimer,” shared a heartfelt thank you to his wife, acknowledging her significant role in his life and career. His words reflected a personal humility, attributing his successes to his efforts and the support and love he received from his partner​​.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph, winner of the Best Supporting Actress for “The Holdovers,” used her speech to express genuine emotion and gratitude. She shared a message about the importance of being oneself, suggesting a humble appreciation for her journey and the people who supported her along the way​​.

The Workplace Impact of Humility

Why is humility so vital in the workplace? It builds bridges. Humble leaders are approachable, open to feedback, and are great listeners. They create an environment where employees feel valued and heard, increasing job satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity. Psychologically, people are drawn to humble individuals because they exude a sense of calm confidence and reliability that they will put the team’s interests above their own.

Modern Exemplars of Humility

Look at leaders like Satya Nadella of Microsoft, who is often praised for his humble leadership style. He has transformed the company culture into one that values collaboration, growth, and empathy. Or consider the legendary investor Warren Buffett, who, despite his immense wealth, is known for his frugality and down-to-earth nature. He often shares credit for his success with his team and mentors.

Embracing Humility: When and How?

So, when should we lean into humility? Always. It starts with self-reflection, recognizing our strengths and weaknesses, and appreciating the value and contributions of others. It’s about being open to learning, growing, and being wrong. Humility in practice means asking for feedback, acknowledging mistakes, and being willing to shift course when necessary.

Incorporate humility into your daily work life by celebrating team successes, recognizing the efforts of others, and remaining open and curious. The next time you’re in a meeting, listen actively, value others’ input, and acknowledge the collective effort. Remember, humility isn’t about diminishing your light but allowing others to shine alongside you.

The Journey of Humility

Embracing humility is a journey, an ongoing process of self-discovery, learning, and connecting with others. It’s about being honest, raw, and authentic, fostering a workplace culture that thrives on mutual respect, shared success, and collective growth.

About Equiliem

Equiliem ( believes in empowering success. It’s our job to cultivate relationships that connect people and employers in a way that is inclusive, intelligent, and allows both to thrive. 

Across the U.S., leading companies in healthcare, government, light industrial manufacturing, professional services, and energy rely on us for their workforce solutions. Our recruiting and HR services include contract and direct hire staffing, Payrolling/EOR, Independent Contractor Compliance, and Managed Services.

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