Character: Curiosity and Humility Are the Prerequisites to Growth and Mastery

In Chapters 3 & 4 of The Citizen Leader, I guide you on an exploration of your deep truths and commitment to be an active citizen and engaging leader and alert you that this inquiry will demand your powers of introspection, reflection and curiosity. I ask you to draw on these personal powers to discern and define the guiding principles that are at the core of your being — at the core of your character.

I begin, early in Chapter 3, by having you to gather data about your guiding principles by both: stating your beliefs about yourself, and then observing your actual behaviors. That data, when closely examined, informs you more accurately of what is real and what is not. It is entirely possible that, despite what you might initially believe, your observations and the resulting information allow you to learn a bit more about yourself — and to identify the actual handful of principles that reside at your core. Good, bad or indifferent, that knowledge is essential if you are to understand your behaviors and actions, and to understand how and why the people around you interact with you and react to you the way they do.

As a next step in your growing self-awareness, I invite you — even challenge you — to find out what the people around you would say are the values or guiding principles that characterize your actions. And the best way to find out is to simply ask them: an inquiry that demands your continuing curiosity, and perhaps some courage.

This part is an exercise in humility. Humility derives from the Latin humus, meaning earth, and the Greek for on the ground. Humility, then, is a state of coming down to earth, of getting grounded in our humanity — of loosening ego in favor of finding out the truth about ourselves. Humility is the great liberator: It liberates us from the bondage of our own self-image, and it liberates others to care about us by helping us become more self-aware.

To succeed with this inquiry, it helps to suspend judgment about any beliefs you might have about yourself, or about what others are saying. It is far more instructive and enlightening when you listen, learn, seek to fully understand and be grateful for the courage and care that others are showing by agreeing to give you their feedback.

To truly find out about yourself, you must rely on both your humility with your curiosity, both when you give yourself feedback and when you ask for it from others.

This exercise is not for the weak of heart. Humility demands strength.

Excerpted and abridged from The Citizen Leader