Humility: The mother of all virtues

By Younas Chaudhary

Why does humility matter in a world full of aggression? In challenging times like these, our external environments are filled with verbal attacks and divisiveness. But we can overcome these forces through our own internal humility.

Humility comes from deep within our spirit, our heart and springs from self-control, respect for others, compassion, forgiveness, and kindness. For example, if a worker is falling short in a particular task, a humble manager will quietly show him the way to perform that task correctly and efficiently, instead of humiliating that person in the presence of others. The co-worker will learn from his mistakes, will make progress, and will learn that he is working for a business that values and respects its workers.

As an owner or president of a company, you have authority over the company, and you have the ability and the obligation to hire and fire people on the company’s behalf. In exercising this authority, you have to lead by example. For example, if you want your staff to come to work at 8:00 a.m., you should show up at least 15 minutes before 8:00 a.m., and you should leave the office after the staff have left the office. And if your co-workers make mistakes that can be modified, corrected, and rectified, show, and lead them down the right path instead of disciplining them. You can be confident that they will fix their errors the next time.

When we show humility by our own actions, we share that trait with others and push others to greater care and kindness. Ultimately, we improve the outlook and morale of the team as a whole.

We all learn humility when we realize that we are not the smartest one in the room. Newly minted managers sometimes think that they know everything and thus are rude and arrogant towards their colleagues. However, good managers who think that their co-workers’ presence at the office is a blessing and who recognize and compliment those co-workers for their hard work, dedication, knowledge, and contributions are the ones who will last.

I try hard to express through my actions with our staff that I feel blessed to be with each one of them. Once a manager acknowledges that some of the co-workers are smarter, quicker, and more efficient than the manager, it becomes simpler and easier to treat co-workers with care, kindness, and humility.

In a similar vein, encourage your co-workers to voice their opinions during daily communications and meetings. For example, currently our engineering team is discussing a plan to drill a new well in the next two months at one of our properties. Two engineers predicted that the well’s payout would take a long time to occur, while two geologists/engineers said that the payout would never occur. We debated this point for some time, and after hearing everyone’s opinions, my own gut told me to go ahead and drill the well to avoid losing the valuable leasehold. It is a calculated risk, and I am glad I was able to make it through open communications, in an atmosphere of humility where everyone was able to voice their unfiltered thoughts and opinions.

Humility is sometimes associated with weakness or softness, but I do not subscribe to that notion. I believe, to the contrary, that humility gives people strength and confidence and allows them to stick to their core values and decisions during challenging times.

When people know how to separate business from emotion when making decisions, they can be astute and humble at the same time.

While negotiating deals, I always pursue deals that will payout faster, with less risk, and with greater potential growth opportunities. For this reason, I thoroughly analyze all the short-term and long-term projections before finalizing any deal. In doing so, I try hard to practice and show humility, because that helps me to be assertive in subsequent negotiations and to secure a favorable deal for my company. 

Growing up in a joint family culture in Pakistan taught me some aspects of humility as a young man. For example, we were taught to always respect the elderly, and it was considered wrong and even forbidden while sitting to cross your legs and put your feet in the direction of an elderly person.  Also, when we greeted elders, we were taught to shake their hand with both our hands and bow slightly before them. And we would always walk on the right side of elders, while also keeping some distance behind them. These were simple physical actions and practices to show humility.

Irrespective of your upbringing, try to learn and copy good habits of humility from others.  Here are some thoughts on how humility will pay off big and benefit you in the long run:

1. Humility takes you on the path to be a “servant” or one who is there to serve others, guide them, and create an atmosphere of happiness, goodwill, hope, and positivity.

2. Humility will allow you to understand the purpose of your existence in this world, it will make you grow up, it will help you do better in your home life and work life, and it will help you build more cohesive teams.

3. Remember, you are not the smartest person in the room. Maintaining that humility will allow you to listen, gauge the pulse of others, and make better decisions.

4. Being humble does not mean that you are weak or soft. You can be humble and astute at the same time.

5. Respect and show lots of care for your elders, for the sick, and for weaker people around you, and show humility by your deeds and actions, as one day any of us can be in the same situation.

6. Keep company with good, humble people, as doing so will pay big dividends in the long run.

7. Always humbly focus on creating the best outcome for others; the result will be the best outcome for you as well.

You can read more by purchasing my best-selling memoir “From Dirt Roads to Black Gold.” Note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of this book will help people in need through my foundation, the YBC Foundation.


The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.  Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.