Some people fail forward. Others fail and quickly spiral downward. These two types of people are very different, but how?

“The difference is on the inside. It’s the spirit of the individual. Those who profit from adversity possess a spirit of humility and are therefore inclined to make the necessary changes needed to learn from their mistakes, failures, and losses. They stand in stark contrast to prideful people who are unwilling to allow adversity to be their teacher and as a result fail to learn.”1

But failure to learn isn’t the only way pride impacts a leader. Prideful people blame others, deny the obvious truth, and are closed-minded, rigid, insecure, and isolated from others. All of these can be detrimental to a leader, especially one who is interested in growing.

However, if leaders can move past arrogance and work toward humility, they can become the very best. Great talent is good, but great talent with a spirit of learning is better. As leaders, we need more than just talent to be successful. In fact, humble leaders must not boast in their talent, but instead, must be confident in the ways they can build others and build organizations regardless of failure.

According to John C. Maxwell’s book, Beyond Talent, “Perseverance is not an issue of talent. It is not an issue of time. It is about finishing. Talent provides hope for accomplishment, but perseverance guarantees it.”2
So often, leaders encounter a task or an obstacle and give up because it seems too daunting. Their pride limits them. They refuse to fail.

With a spirit of humility, leaders recognize that they will likely fail, but that their perseverance allows them to stand back up after the fall and move forward with confidence. Humble leaders are modest about their success, and make it known to everyone that their failures don’t define them. Instead, they finish the drill, fail forward and let their spirit of humility help them to benefit from adversity.

When we make mistakes, we can see them as failures or as possibilities for innovation. It is easy to get discouraged. If you have a spirit of learning, you can take the positives from the mistake and make use of them in the future.

Here are 4 ways to create a spirit of humility:

  1. Don’t think less of yourself, just think of yourself less.
  2. Allow yourself to fail, but know it’s not the end of the world when you do.
  3. When mistakes are made, recognize the problem, solve it and move forward with new knowledge.
  4. Live with the mindset that there is always something to learn from everyone.

Overall, by always keeping an open mind and being geared toward learning, humility can propel us forward during good times and bad. We grow from mistakes and learn from failures, and in the end, our leadership benefits.

Leaders, how have you seen a spirit of learning and humility benefit your leadership? We’d love to hear in the comment section below.

To learn more about how a spirit of humility helps you learn, order John Maxwell’s newest book to be released in October, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn.

Also, join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter and check out Maxwell’s thoughts on humility with this great Minute with Maxwell.
1 John C. Maxwell, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn (New York: Center Street, 2013), 19.
2 John C. Maxwell, Beyond Talent (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 125.


  1. Natlyn McGhee on January 9, 2021 at 8:59 am

    Great 4 ways to creat a humble spirit. Thank you

  2. Janice on February 8, 2021 at 10:33 pm

    1. Don’t think less of yourself, think of yourself less.

    2. Allow yourself the privilege to fail and learn from it.
    3. When mistakes are made, recognize the problem and fix it.

    4. Live with the mindset that there is always something to learn.

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