Dr. Mohammed Benayoune
It is said that arrogance is at the root of all evil. Arrogance is also a great cause of failure in life. Humility on the other hand is a ticket to success in this life and the next.
The Quran and hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) warn us about being even slightly arrogant. In the Quran Allah says: “And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, God likes not each arrogant boaster.” (Quran 31:18). He also said: “And the slaves of God are those who walk on the earth in humility and calmness, and when the foolish address them (with bad words) they reply back with mild words of gentleness.” (Quran 25:63). The prophet (PBUH) warns us: “No one will enter Paradise who has an atom’s-weight of arrogance in his heart.” (Narrated by Muslim, 91): In another hadith he said “On the Day of Resurrection the arrogant will be gathered like ants in the form of men.” (al-Tirmidhi, 2492) and in another he tell us that Hell will say, “My share is the arrogant.” (al-Bukhaari, 4850; Muslim, 2846).
Arrogance is what brought Satan down from the company of angels to become a cursed one. When he was asked to bow to Adam, he exclaimed “I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay” (Quran 7:12).
Arrogance means feeling superior to others in one or more ways. It could be because a person feels s/he has a high position or believe they have more money than others or may be because they believe they are from a better race, creed or family lineage. Sometimes people are arrogant because they simply feel they are better than others around them. In an organisation, arrogance can have a negative impact on teamwork and productivity, leading ultimately to the downfall of the organisation, especially if it is displayed by the people in leadership. The leadership of Enron, the biggest bankruptcy in history, displayed a lot of arrogance in the final months before its collapse. On the other hand humility brings respect from others and hence enhances teamwork and productivity leading to a much stronger organisation.
How does arrogance destroy your organisation and humility builds it?
Arrogance fosters a negative-minded culture. When arrogance is tolerated in your organisation your people start to look negatively at others including their co-workers, customers and competition. Humility, on the other hand, fosters a positive-minded culture because people appreciate each other and see the good in each person.
Arrogance breeds animosity among your people while humility breeds respect leading to stronger bonds among your team members.
Arrogance stops your people from learning because arrogant people do not ask questions out of fear of appearing ignorant in front of others. Humility, however, increases learning because people ask questions when they do not know.
Arrogance stops your people from building good relationships internally and externally because they do not always respect others and put their interest ahead of others. Humility promotes good relationships because humble people value the good in each one and put others before their self-interest.
Arrogance breeds dishonesty, fraud and deceit when people try to show that they are better than they actually are. Humility breeds honesty, truthfulness and integrity because people are not afraid to be who they truly are.
Arrogance promotes mistrust because people generally consider arrogant people as phony and untrustworthy. Humility promotes trust because people consider humble people as genuine and hence worthy of their trust.
In addition to the obvious consequences highlighted above, there is the unseen hand of Allah that comes into play. The Prophet (PBUH) teaches us that "Allah will not increase His servant when he forgives except in honour. No-one humbles himself for the sake of Allah but Allah will raise his status." (Muslim, 16/141).
How do you foster humility in your organisation while minimising arrogant behaviour?
Here are my suggestions:
You must be a role model of humility to your team. Like everything else, if you do not practice what you are advising others to do, your advice will remain hollow and no one will take notice. Being humble means treating people at all levels, inside and outside the organisation, whether you need them or not, with the utmost respect. It means giving full attention to those who come to talk to you, listening attentively and giving appropriate feedback. It also means making time for those who need you.
Create an atmosphere of trust and respect where people can be themselves and do not have to watch their backs all the time or fear their humility being taken as weakness.
Encourage and reward people who display signs of humility and are quick to accept their shortcomings.
Discourage the slightest signs of arrogant behaviour.
Encourage feedback and criticism in your organisation.
Give every person the credit they deserve and discourage those who want to take credit they do not deserve.
These are just some simple ideas you can use to foster an atmosphere of humility and success.
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