Humility in Business: A Contextual Approach
- 630 Downloads
The virtue of humility is often considered to be at odds with common business practice. In recent years, however, scholars within business ethics and leadership have shown an increasing interest in humility. Despite such attention, the argument for the relevance of humility in business could be expanded. Unlike extant research that focuses on humility as a character-building virtue or instrumentally useful leadership trait, this article argues that humility reflects the interdependent nature of business. Through such an approach, the article gives an extrinsic motivation of the relevance of humility in business, and, from a theoretical point of view, links the intra-personal and intra-organizational perspective on humility to an inter-organizational one. The article contextualizes the virtue of humility by relating it to the economic, cognitive, and moral aspects of business practice and managerial work. It claims that the assumption of self-sufficiency in business is a grave misrepresentation of what business is—a practice characterized by interdependency. Potential links between virtue ethics, leadership, and contextually oriented theories of business, such as stakeholder theory, network theories, and resource dependence theory, are also identified.
KeywordsBusiness Context Humility Network theory Resource dependence theory Self-sufficiency Stakeholder theory Virtue
- Aquinas, T. (1955–1957). Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV (C. J. O’Neil, Trans.). New York: Hanover House. Retrieved July 3, 2014, from http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles.htm.
- Argandoña, A. (2013). Reputation and humility in corporate management. Working Paper WP-1071-E. IESE Business School, University of Navarra.Google Scholar
- Benedict XVI. (2009). Caritas in Veritate. Vatican: Holy See.Google Scholar
- Cameron, K. S., Dutton, J. E., & Quinn, R. E. (Eds.). (2003). Positive organizational scholarship. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.Google Scholar
- Collins, J. (2001). Level 5 Leadership: The triumph of humility and fierce resolve. Harvard Business Review, 79(1), 66–76.Google Scholar
- Donaldson, T., & Preston, L. E. (1995). The stakeholder theory of the corporation: Concepts, evidence, and implications. Academy of Management Review, 20(1), 65–91.Google Scholar
- Freeman, R. E. (1984). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. Marshfield: Pitman.Google Scholar
- Frostenson, M., & Prenkert, F. (2014). Sustainable supply chain management when focal firms are complex: A network perspective. Journal of Cleaner Production. doi: 10.1016/j.clepro.2014.05.034.
- Hume, D. (1751). An enquiry concerning the principles of morals. Retrieved July 3, 2014, from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4320/4320-h/4320-h.htm.
- Kallasvuo, O. P. (2007). Humility. Harvard Business Review, 85(1), 16.Google Scholar
- Livaccari, C. (2014). Just who was Confucius, anyway? Asia Society. Retrieved June 26, 2014, from http://asiasociety.org/education/chinese-language-initiatives/just-who-was-confucius-anyway.
- MacIntyre, A. (1999). Dependent rational animals: Why human beings need the virtues. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
- Nielsen, R., Marrone, J. A., & Ferraro, H. S. (2014). Leading with humility. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Nohria, N., & Eccles, R. G. (Eds.). (1992). Networks and organizations: Structure, form, and action. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A classification and handbook. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Pfeffer, J., & Salancik, G. R. (1978). The external control of organizations: A resource dependence perspective. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
- Rhenman, E. (1964). Företagsdemokrati och företagsorganisation. Stockholm: P.A. Norstedts & Söners.Google Scholar
- Rowley, T. (1997). Moving beyond dyadic ties: A network theory of stakeholder influences. Academy of Management Review, 22(4), 887–910.Google Scholar
- Solomon, R. C. (1992). Ethics and excellence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Solomon, R. C. (1999). A better way to think about business: How personal integrity leads to corporate success. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Suchman, M. C. (1995). Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 571–610.Google Scholar
- Waley, A. (1938). The analects of Confucius. New York: Macmillan Company.Google Scholar