Lessons in Humility from the Miss Universe Incident

Miss Universe incident
Miss Universe incident

Since the incident at Miss Universe where the host announced the wrong winner, Steve Harvey’s and Miss Colombia’s world temporarily fell apart, the net has exploded with its typical response to this type of event – insanity.  Articles blaming Steve, or Miss Philippines, or Miss Colombia, conspiracy articles saying Trump did it for publicity, and a slew of designers coming up with better ways to display 1st, 2nd and 3rd places.  Ok, the card won’t win any awards – even in a kids competition – but it was still pretty obvious and even on the teleprompter.

But, that’s not what this article is about.   So, instead I’m going to add one more to the pile of articles written but focus on something a little different.  I’m going to focus a key leadership trait that’s been displayed by the ultimate winner Miss Philippines.  That trait is humility.

humility – noun

the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance.

No employee wants to work for an arrogant boss, let alone one who is full of self-importance and ego.  Yet, many still see humility as a weakness, and certain firms still actively discourage – even punish – such behavior.  Many surveys cite the opposite; such as this recent Catalyst one, that showed humility to be one of the 4 key leadership traits for creating an inclusive environment.  Lazlo Bock, Google’s SVP of People Operations, said in a recent Forbes article, that “Without humility, you are unable to learn.”

So, we know that humility is a sign of a strong leader but what does this have to do with Miss Universe?  We need to look no further than the behavior of the two affected contestants in the aftermath of that infamous night. It’s difficult to imagine how Miss Colombia felt on the night, or even a few days later.  There was a dreadful, cringeworthy 2-3 minute gap where she stood on stage, in front of millions around the world, with the crown and sash of the winner. Then, to have it taken from you on said stage, would be embarrassing to say the least.

However, how we act in a moment of crisis defines us, not only as a leader but as a person.  In this situation we have two polar opposites.  In one corner, Miss Colombia, who has reacted initially by ignoring Miss Philippines’ consolations live on stage, and followed up by posting pictures of herself on Instagram complete with crown.  In the other corner, we have Miss Philippines, who has demonstrated humility and empathy upon the announcement with no over-the-top celebrations, and an attempt to console Miss Colombia.  In the days since, she has retained a dignified silence as the media whips up an unnecessary storm.

To Miss Colombia’s credit, on Tuesday she posted a message on Instagram congratulating Miss Philippines on her success, and trying to see the positive in the situation.  However, as in leadership, it’s more often your initial reaction to events that you are judged on, and not what you do several days after the incident.  In business, curveballs can hit you at any time, and no planning can prepare you for them.  They require a heightened degree of emotional intelligence and self-awareness, but even if your initial reaction is negative, you still have a short time period to correct yourself.

Many blame Steve Harvey and the organisers for taking so long to correct the situation.  My view is that it’s always better to take a few moments to ensure your next move is the right one.  There have been several other articles that accurately depict the other leadership traits he showed on the night; admitting mistakes, rectifying them immediately, apologising, and humility.  If you try to correct the mistake too quickly, you run the risk of making it worse.  You only get one chance at it, so make sure it counts.

I wish all 3 parties the very best in their future careers.  No-one wants to win or lose in that manner, but we shouldn’t judge everyone on their mistakes; it’s the way we handle them in the aftermath that matters.

 

This article is contributed by Mark Stuart, Leadership Trainer & Coach at Anagram Group

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