Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in Major League Baseball, is also one of the very best players of all time. Even when facing incredible adversity and unimaginable odds, Robinson was the consummate professional; his abilities would help clinch the 1955 World Series Championship for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Despite his many accomplishments, both in sports and as an advocate for racial equity, Robinson, to me, is the definition of humility. When inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, he refused any superlatives on his plaque. His professional accomplishments were the only things listed.

That one can accomplish this while enduring so much with such grace and distinction, for the betterment of others should serve as an inspiration to us all.

Humility is one of the Founder’s Principles at the core of who we are, firmly cemented in the bedrock of our culture. It keeps us grounded and facilitates our learning in the pursuit of all that we aspire to achieve together.

Too often in the business world, overconfidence and perfection are rewarded. We are encouraged to prioritize our own accomplishments, and that hiding our missteps is usually the best course of action to safeguard our career. In reality, we know the road to success is paved with mistakes, falling short, and continuous learning. When this type of openness to sharing our learnings is not encouraged, it can be difficult to admit when we are wrong or even worse, challenging to accept feedback when doing so might make us appear weak.

At Quest Global, we aim to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable opening up about their mistakes, and safe in the knowledge they will be supported and treated with understanding and respect. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and admit when we are wrong, it instills confidence, trust, and signals to others that it’s okay. This kind of thinking lets everyone know that even when we don’t have the immediate answers to a problem, we can work together to find a solution. True humility also awakens a growth mindset fueled by our commitment to continuous learning.

I’m grateful to say that I’ve witnessed this firsthand. Shortly after starting my journey with Quest Global I participated in an annual leadership meeting as one of my first introductions to the organization and its people. Humility was everywhere in how people introduced themselves without egos, hierarchy, or even titles. It was all about welcoming me and showing a genuine interest in wanting to share whatever they could to help me on my journey. People were incredibly grounded and generous in their behavior.

It was in this meeting that I saw my peers freely share their learnings with each other, not in a way that was self punishing, but in the spirit of sharing so that others could learn and not repeat those same mistakes. Very different from experiences where leadership meetings offered the chance to showcase all that went well. When we take humility to heart, we open ourselves up to listening to diverse perspectives, which is also key to making those we work with feel included.

Of course, this grounding in humility can come with challenges: not everyone sees the importance of staying humble and might be more eager to put the spotlight on themselves rather than acknowledge the accomplishments of their team members. Then there’s the opposite problem: humility can be a problem if it goes to such an extreme that people are afraid to highlight their successes or overemphasize what went wrong. There is nothing wrong with being proud of one’s accomplishments. What is key is being proud while avoiding the temptation of resting on our laurels and thinking we have everything all figured out.

Internally, we heard from people across our organization and got insight into how our teams think about humility.

We learned that humility is not about:

  • Being egotistical, hierarchical, or overconfident;
  • Pretending to be perfect without fault;
  • Taking credit for wins, placing blame for failures:
  • Focusing on outdoing others; or
  • Hiding our mistakes or failures.

Instead, it is about:

  • Accepting feedback with open ears;
  • Treating everyone with the utmost respect;
  • Sharing when we don’t know, get things wrong;
  • Learning and staying open to different ideas;
  • Maintaining a servant-leader mindset;
  • Acknowledging our mistakes, and sharing the learnings.

At its core, humility is not about any one person. It’s about the value of collaboration and the importance of making things better for everyone. It’s about all of us.

As my hero, Jackie Robinson said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Whether it’s a lesson to pass on or recognizing someone for a job well done, it’s about appreciating everyone  and making sure they share in the credit. And the most inspiring thing about working at Quest Global is that our people genuinely believe in this Founder’s Principle that forms the bedrock of our culture and show it every day.

Written by Courtney Headley

on 27 Oct 2023