Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 138, Issue 1, pp 91–102 | Cite as

Humility in Business: A Contextual Approach



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.


Business Context Humility Network theory Resource dependence theory Self-sufficiency Stakeholder theory Virtue 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Örebro University School of BusinessÖrebroSweden

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