Humility: The New FAD?

Humility: The New FAD?

Has Ajinkya Rahane reemphasized humility as a key virtue for Leadership or we are getting carried away by the historical win?

Yes, we all love cricket. Moreover, we like to win; we also tend to support underdogs. By all means, in the recent Australian series, we were possibly playing our second-best eleven with a few exceptions. Due credit has to be given to the captaincy in a team sport like cricket. Two run-outs of Captain Kohli and Captain Rahane stand as contrast expressions in two tests, one of a silent sulking walk back and the other of an encouragement pat to the partner to carry on. Now, let’s take a pause there and not overdramatize differing personalities and contexts.

Are some of us getting carried away by attributing too much to Ajinkya Rahane’s humble personality as the winning magic potion, and is that being a great virtue of leadership?

Many Tweets, Columns, WhatsApp has been going around the humility factor and indirectly taking a shot at Virat’s aggressive leadership style. From Jim Collins to HBR, there have been many studies around why Humility is a great virtue for leadership. In a lovely book called Humble Inquiry, Edgar Schein explores “the gentle art of asking instead of telling,” Let's reflect further on the facets of humility.

Psychological Safety

In Latin ‘Humus’ means earth/ground, and ‘humilis’ means on the ground. Studies have demonstrated that leaders with humility increase psychological safety for the team, and hence teams like leaders who make them feel safe. Psychological Safety can create happy workplaces and hence create more productive employees? Not necessarily? If not balanced with the right expectations and productivity measures, it can backfire?

Once I was interacting with a leader who had just taken charge of an IT GIC. Their just-concluded employer branding roadshow highlighted how they were known for the best work-life balance. In fact, that was their number one feature that came out in surveys. The GM wasn’t too pleased when we congratulated him on the great work-life balance factor.  “This has created a lazy culture, and our productivity is the lowest amongst peers globally, and our competition is ahead in innovation. It’s the leaders like me who are paying the price here, and I am the 3rd Country GM in the last five years due to the low productivity, I will rather be known for technology innovation than work-life balance,” he lamented.


Aggression and Narcissism, in a way, is two sides of the same coin. We also tend to appreciate aggressive leaders who express more emotions and demand more from others openly. In many circumstances, it works for organisations to turnaround situations, change cultures, increases innovation, and raise the bar in terms of competition. Aggressive leaders also bring narcissism as a package, and not all of us relate to it well. Let's picture a narcissist/expressive leader. They are more likely to guide you/directions and narrate their own stories of how they achieved what they now expect from you. On the one hand, it makes sense to relate to a story. At the same time, you might feel like being compared or pressurized simultaneously. I would put it down to your wiring than the leader’s personality.

I am usually grounded by my 11-year-old daughter, who catches me during my Gyan session and says, “Appa.’ It's always your story. All you need is a tiny chance to start talking about your heroic childhood.” J

Go on a flashback and remember the leaders you worked with or appreciated the most. How many were the aggressive/expressive and maybe a touch narcissist types, and how many were the humble/reticent types? Ever wondered why you relate more to one than the other?


I would like to believe it’s our own mental makeup that decides whether we like the humble leaders or aggressive/dominant leaders. Sometimes do we like to see in these leaders what we ‘don’t have’ if it helps our viewpoint?

I remember once when we were in the midst of a clean-up before handing over ourselves to an acquirer. We had an aggressive leader who expressively showed her emotions & was famously called a ruthless assassin. She single-handedly cut the fab in the organisation over a period of time with multiple executive decisions. Many chairs occupying/email writing leaders with fat salaries were eased out and replaced by young, energetic leaders from within. The heavy/inefficient regional/corporate offices were asked to go lean to the tune of 50%. By the time the acquirer took over, it was a highly efficient profit-making machine. The people who were affected by her approach loathed her. The beneficiaries of her decisions earned promotions and bonuses. The organisation earnt more profits consistently thereafter.


We are great fans of the style, but even greater admirers of results. Enterprises/teams are no different. When there are favorable outcomes, we tend to appreciate the trait which brought out the outcome and label it as the impact factor. Whether it's aggression, people connect, decisiveness, expressions, process, or stability & now humility, we choose the leader's salient feature and hail them if there is a productive outcome due to them.

The bosses who gave us the best increments, bonuses, promotions, jobs are the ones we likely hail the most, even though it would have come at the cost of them being nasty, mean, and unfair to many others?

Are we children of favorable results who appreciate the character behind wins and then glorify their underlying traits? Humility for now is what we could relate as far as Rahane is concerned?

As long as nice guys don’t finish last, we should be fine?

Right now humility is the latest FAD. Let’s celebrate it!

You may also like