Humility stops hubris in its tracks because humility knows that hubris does not bear the same identity as itself. I want to state at that much of what I am about to say may seem at first glance to be so obvious that it does not require this level of detailed explanation. However, when you develop a deeper understanding of the laws of logic and their distinctions, you will gain a more mature appreciation of why it is important to explore the philosophical constructs of humility and hubris and bring their differences to light.

The second law of logic states that a term is always itself. This is called the law of identity. In formal language, this law is expressed by the phrase A is A. In other words, a term is identified by what it is; it can never be anything other than what it is. A can never be B and B is never A. A cat can never be a dog, and a dog is never a cat.

The law of identity also mandates that a term can only reflect itself. Consequently, hubris cannot reflect the characteristics of humility and humility will not reflect anything that would be defined in terms of hubris.

It logically follows, then, that hubris and humility are mutually exclusive terms. Hence, they cannot occupy the mind at the same time because they contradict one another. When you posit hubris, you necessarily negate humility. They are polar opposites. Hubris cannot coexist with humility and vice-versa.

One of the most beneficial exercises for the human mind is to discern the difference between these two diametrically opposed states of mind. Without a comprehensive understanding of the meaning of both humility and hubris and their necessary consequences, a person will never experience the profitable high road of life that will bring good to themselves, to everyone who knows them, and to the organizations they serve.

Not everyone chooses to take that high road! We can all agree that it is easy to spot a deplorable lack of humility in a great many organizational leaders who sincerely believe they are better and brighter than other people! This hubris begins in the halls of academia; we don’t learn about a balance of confidence and humility in schools. People are taught that they should graduate from our schools of business and education, go out into the world, and radiate confidence; they’ve learned nothing about the importance of winsome humility. All too often, that confidence our students have learned to project crosses the line into unalluring pride.

Pride cancels out my confidence. If I am out of balance—if I don’t keep my confidence in check—I won’t inspire people. I certainly won’t inspire their hearts! And I’m not going to empower them. Once I slip past confident into cocky, I begin to believe that “If I want to get it done right, I have to do it myself.” This creates a need for control. And once I am locked into this hubris, I can’t let go of control, because someone else might do it … and do it as well as I can! I will never allow empowerment to occur! This creates a “doom loop” of keeping my fingers firmly planted in more and more pies, having less and less time to concentrate on my long range Key Business Imperatives, and demotivating more and more of my purpose partners.*

*At People First International, we use the phrase purpose partners instead of employees.