By Mdyomba Che Ambute
One Sunday afternoon in 2018, a ground staffer at Kamuzu International Airport demanded to see the passport of a passenger in a black suit. The man looked frantically in his bag for his passport. The staffer’s patience wore off and he called the next passenger to go through the boarding gate.
After a few seconds, the passenger found his diplomatic passport. The staffer apologized profusely. He had not recognized Malawi’s Vice President, Right Honorable Everton Chimulirenji, then Deputy Minister of defense. He was scheduled to fly out of Malawi and it’s not clear why he didn’t use the state VIP lounge, from which he would have been accompanied by protocol officers to the flight. Fast forward to June 2019 nothing about the way Right Honorable Chimulirenji carries himself has changed – he’s still the same old humble, down to earth politician.
A lot of people today, in their pursuit of success, wealth and power, have forgotten or disregarded key personality traits that actually would have helped them achieve all three.
Probably the most severely lacking? Humility. Most people, especially politicians, are arrogant. Humility and arrogance, of course, operate on opposite sides of the social “influence” spectrum. Both certainly hold some power, but for one, that power is fleeting, while for the other it is subtle but lasting.
On one side of this spectrum, we have those who put themselves up on a pedestal above all others. These people appear to have an incredible amount of self-confidence. However, their self-confidence is nothing more but a trick, similar to that of a magician who uses carefully thought out illusions to convince others of the validity of their act. This person shows confidence on the outside, however, on the inside, they typically operate from a sense of insecurity and fear. They fear that sooner or later they will be caught out; that their magic trick will no longer validate the person they project out into the world.
I guess we could typically call these people arrogant, vain, self-centered, obnoxious or possibly even “full of themselves”. The self-confidence they project out into the world might temporarily help them feel better about themselves, however, this also comes at the expense of others. All they do is talk about themselves and their accomplishments while making other people feel rather small and insignificant. And of course, they do this in an attempt to hide their own flaws and insecurities. In other words, they are hiding their authentic selves from the world. We saw this in one of the presidential candidates in the just ended Tripartite Elections.
Now this, of course, rubs people the wrong way. Most people quickly see through this illusory act and quickly lose all respect for this person. And when respect goes, so does any influence that these people potentially could have had over others.
There is, of course, a second type of person. The Chimulirenji type. And it could be said that this person is the exact opposite of the first. They are typically very genuine, polite, grateful, appreciative, sincere, modest, calm, and honorable. They don’t put on an illusory act in order to inflate their own ego at the expense of others. They are instead very authentic, open and transparent.
Yes, they too have their personal insecurities and fears, however, they don’t try and hide these parts of themselves from the world. They instead embrace who they are completely. And because they embrace themselves in this way they are able to authentically present themselves to the world. And it’s this authenticity that gives them incredible power and influence over others.
To be humble is to have humility. It’s about showing respect and courtesy to others while also giving yourself that same courtesy and respect in return. It’s all about being gracious in victory as well as in defeat. A humble person will often put others on a pedestal before themselves, and this is not because they are inferior, weak-minded or lacking in self-esteem, but rather because they clearly understand that raising others helps build their confidence. And with greater self-confidence, these people subsequently feel more empowered and worthy, and as a result, they become more trusting, receptive and open-minded.
Whatever we do in life, the truth is, humility — and, more specifically, humble power — can get you so much farther than flaunting. I would like to think Right Honorable Chimulirenji would have never been considered for runningmate if he was not a humble person.
Unfortunately for most of us, it takes humiliation in order to teach us the virtue of humility. The thing is, no matter how smart, successful, good-looking or special you (think you) are, nobody likes a braggart. Nobody likes arrogance. Nobody likes cockiness.
It’s really important to practice humility, to develop into a better leader and a better person. Humility and vulnerability make us more likable.
Right Honorable Chimulirenji is frank, not arrogant. Perhaps we could all borrow a leaf from the Veep, “for those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” – Matthew 23:12.
Masile Une Wawo,
Mdyomba Che Ambute.