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Finding humility in a haughty world

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In his book “Good to Great,” business guru Jim Collins describes what he calls “Level Five Leadership,” and why it’s so hard to achieve.

Level Four is mainly attained by a person’s drive to make it to the top. Ambition, talent, egotism and self-fulfillment characterize the ascent.

But Collins’ “Level Five” leaders also have a humility that makes them truly transformational people. They have ample motivation, extreme knowledge and special skills, but they also know it’s not all about them.

Here’s the irony: Everything that catapults a leader to Level Four works against him or her in the jump to Level Five. That’s why, Collins says, not many people get there.

When I look around our world today, I see growing levels of hubris, pride, arrogance and self-aggrandizing. Heck, we even put lines like “Future Hall of Famer” (and worse) on toddler T-shirts.

At a middle school B-team basketball game recently, a player blocked a shot, and then towered over his victim with heavy taunting.

I thought, in a measure of disbelief, “This is middle school! And B-team at that!”

Professional sports drive a lot of it. Kids just mimic what they see. Practically every play nowadays is punctuated with a Super Bowl-level celebration.

The concept “act like you’ve been there before” has flown the coop, along with “let your play do the talking.”

The entertainment culture contributes cockiness, too. The more highly one thinks of himself, the more likely a 15-minute run of fame will last to 16.

Social media perpetuates a look-atme environment. “Influencers” are paid based on their followership and followers rarely follow the self-effacing.

It’s not an easy line to walk. I want “Make America Great Again” without forgetting pride comes before a fall.

I want confidence in our progress but also a recognition that for as far as we’ve come, we still can’t land all helicopter flights safely.

Scripture is full of admonitions like Luke 18:14, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Last week, San Antonio Express News sportswriter Tom Orsborn highlighted the reading passions of San Antonio Spurs past and present.

Legend Manu Ginobili recommends “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday. I haven’t read it, but it looks timely. Here’s a clip from the prologue:

“While the history books are filled with tales of obsessive, visionary geniuses who remade the world in their image with sheer, almost irrational force, I’ve found that history is also made by individuals who fought their egos at every turn, who eschewed the spotlight, and who put their higher goals above their desire for recognition.”

Are we surprised that an organization that won five world championships in 15 years would spawn players interested in selflessness? Win or lose, head coach Gregg Popovich consistently encourages opposing players and coaches after games.

Corey Benjamin, the Chicago Bulls’ first round draft pick in 1998, once told a teammate he could beat a retired Michael Jordan in one-on-one.

When word got around, Jordan showed up to the Bulls practice facility to set the record straight. The game wasn’t even close. His Airness, in sweatpants, handled the upstart with ease.

A little humility - “I’d like to play Michael Jordan in one-on-one.” - would have kept Corey Benjamin off the wrong pages of basketball history.

Kevin Thompson writes frequently for The Boerne Star. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.