Your Route to the top: How to be humble

If you're doing well while everyone else is struggling, here's how to stop that success going to your head.

Last Updated: 15 Nov 2010

Open up. Get the most out of your team by welcoming their views. Appreciate everyone's contribution and you'll create more innovative solutions, together.

Go for gold, not glory. Author Jim Collins compared the performance of high-profile CEOs with those who stay out of the limelight, and found that it's results, not status, that count. Focus on your role, not your profile.

Don't tell, show. You don't have to be full of charisma, but simply demonstrate the high standards you expect. Inspiring behaviour can be more powerful than an inspiring speech.

Let others shine. Deflect discussions about yourself by praising the contributions of others. Lou Gerstner, who stopped IBM from crumbling in the '90s, illustrates this: 'Change came to IBM in large part due to the pride and energy of the employees themselves... My role was to kick-start the process.'

Have faith. Coleman Mockler turned Gillette around, and retained remarkable balance in his work and home life - even during the darkest times of takeover crisis. His secret? Trusting the team that he'd assembled. Cultivate a team of experts and they'll build greatness, even when you're not there.

Selectively reveal weaknesses. Let people see that you're human and they'll feel comfortable working on their own weaknesses. Don't gloss over imperfections and you'll motivate others to get to where you are now.

Ask for feedback. David Pottruck, former CEO of Charles Schwab, found that his long workdays and aggression made colleagues and family resent him. By his third marriage he had the answer: ask for feedback on a regular basis.

Step back. Create something that will live on, long after you've moved on. One humble CEO said: 'I want to look from my porch, see the company as one of the great companies in the world, and be able to say: "I used to work there."'

'The Mind Gym: Give me time' is published by Time Warner Books (£12.99). Contact the firm at

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