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In my humble opinion...

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By Gordon Boyle


Some years ago I shared with some of my team a simple three-word summary. I named it the 3Hs and the words were humble, healthy and honest.

I explained why I thought all three words were important when it comes to being an effective leader.

I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts on the word humble which for some leaders is not something that is associated with successful leadership.

I strongly disagree and in fact having a humble streak is a real benefit when it comes to being a truly great leader.

Being humble doesn’t mean to think less of yourself, it really means to think of yourself less. You can have strong self-esteem but not brag or make a big deal of yourself to others.

In fact, it’s most often people with low self-esteem that feel the need to do show off and when the chance occurs take ownership of success that others created.

When I lived in Saudi Arabia Unilever ran a marketing campaign for Lipton’s tea.

All over the country there were advertising hoardings showing a picture of the tea with this slogan: “Lipton’s yellow label tea number one wherever you go”.

I remember an old Saudi man telling me, in Saudi culture saying you are number one was not the right thing to say.

He explained that telling others you were the best was not something people admired.

I remember the British Airways slogan “The World’s Favourite Airline” which was introduced in 1989.

Today as the airline celebrates their 100th anniversary many are saying we are witnessing the death of the world’s favourite airline due to their current troubles and passenger offering.

Over in Denmark for over 30 years, Carlsberg promoted itself as “Probably the best beer in the world”.

Carlsberg now freely admit their beer is probably not the best in the world. They admit to focusing on brewing quantity, not quality. They became one of the cheapest, not the best and now realise they must start again by being honest with their consumers.

If as a leader you can resist the temptation to be a know all, show off and be viewed as humble and relate to others this will pay back big time.

Teams want a leader who inspires and motivates them and someone they have the confidence in to take the team and the business in the right direction.

I would like to finish by sharing with you one of my favourite marketing slogans. “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely take care of it for the next generation.”

I love the idea that someone would have a watch that serves not only the needs of the owner but also the needs of the next generation.

When I ended my career with BMMI and retired I was so proud of a team who were responsible for the company being not only a stronger company compared to when I joined but also a company who had a wonderful DNA which demonstrated that those at the top were endowed with humility rather than arrogance and self-interest.

Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at gordonboyle@hotmail.com

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