Courage, humility and—business?

As I’ve searched for religious articles about quiet courage, I’ve found some beautiful and powerful examples.

But the internet is a big place, and too often I have found articles in which simple faith and ethical behavior were not central. Those writings either pounded the reader with what the scriptures demand, or examined a courageous act and negated its legitimacy by saying that it didn’t properly follow the scriptures.


I did find excellent articles on humility and courage in an unexpected source: the creative side of the business world!

Who knew?

Having made my career in teaching, a helping profession, I’ve tended to look at business as a foreign entity. Although I’ve supported charities and nonprofits, such as our Ten Thousand Villages stores, which promote handicrafts from developing countries, I’ve thought of business-for-profit in less charitable terms.

But I’m learning.

Pedro Lastra at

Edward D. Hess, professor at the Univ. of Virginia Darden School of Business, gives us an article titled “Innovation Requires Humility and Courage.” The article is short and well worth the read.

Hess says, “[Being smart is] no longer knowing all the answers or rarely being wrong. Being smart now means accepting [—] our ignorance, and identifying ourselves not by how much we know but by how well we use [—] open-mindedness, and subjecting our beliefs to testing.”

Continuing with Hess: “Pixar CEO, Ed Catmull [said it this way:] “You are not your idea,” and Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio said, “Motivation to get better has to be higher than the motivation to be right.”

In other words, without humility we can neither hear, see, nor play well with others. And we can’t really serve  customers, either. How can we have insight about customers’ needs if we can’t appreciate our own colleagues?

Okay, that’s humility, but what about courage?

Hess believes that courage helps business folk become explorers of innovation, but often people are so afraid of being wrong that either they can’t listen, or they insist things go their way. Courage can’t be achieved by thinking about it only. We must experience it: put ourselves in situations in which we must practice. That doesn’t mean being foolhardy, but being willing to view our mistakes as learning adventures.

Easier said than done!

Karina Fabian says that humble leadership is the most important factor in determining team spirit. Humility, she says, is not weakness but the courage to acknowledge one’s strengths and shortcomings and recognize the same in others.

Fabian quotes Angela Sebaly, co-founder and CEO of Personify Leadership and author of “The Courageous Leader” (Wiley, 2017):

”Humility is about minimizing the self and maximizing the bigger purpose you represent. When you think about humility in that way, it becomes a vital competency in leadership because it takes the focus from the ‘I’ to ‘We.’ Leaders with humility engage us and give us a sense of identity and purpose.”

Drawing on Sebaly’s experience, Fabian says that many leaders will exercise courage if the perceived consequences are low, ‘–but truly successful leaders will go into more humbling situations with an open mind and a desire to learn. Those people, in general, break past middle management.’

Stefan Stefancik at

For an overflowing cache of courage and humility, though, we must come back to our beloved nonprofits. Community, cooperation, and the artisans themselves drive these businesses forward.

Darlene Rohrer-Meck, former executive director (retired) of Ten Thousand Villages in Cincinnati says: “In my work with Ten Thousand Villages, I have heard over and over from the artisans how the relationship with Ten Thousand Villages is life changing for them. This is what motivated me every day and gave me the energy and the courage to try new things and do my best every day to represent them fairly.

My goodness, what we can learn from business!

Theses verses of Paul help me imagine where real listening and collaborating–without our vying to be the smartest person in the room–could take us in the organizations we inhabit.

2 Corinthians 3: 4-6:

4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

I like to imagine what we could do if we listened more, both to each other and to the spirit, rather than to that awful fear that demands the letter of perfection. Imagine any group you know, and see it move toward cooperation and collaboration, rather than lose its soul in ironfisted combat.

Best wishes and have a good week.


I welcome your comments on my blog page: Please enjoy a few short stories there, as well.

{Thank you to my niece, Addie Liechty, for taking the picture above that is this newsletter’s featured image. Her blog is:}


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Greta Holt


  1. Jerri Osborn on March 22, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Thanks so much for sharing.Like you, for me, the business world was always represented by the “bottom line.” Good to hear these values of courage and humility are alive and well in that area of society!

  2. Greta Holt on March 22, 2018 at 10:51 am

    As you know, teaching has its own, huge challenges in the areas of courage and humility. I was surprised, though, to punch in a Google search for courage and humility and find so many articles about business. Thanks for commenting!

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