Are we humble enough?


Last month, the regional members of PROI Worldwide met in Taipei to reflect, debate and learn from each other, particularly on the topic of reputation.

We talked about why reputation matters. We reflected on how it can help to build a proud, productive workforce who are prepared to speak up for their organisation, particularly during a crisis.

So what do our employees expect from us and are we getting it right? What helps to build a great internal reputation?

Much has been written about purpose and its importance in engaging and uniting people. Our employees are interested in the business that we’re in, and whether we have a noble purpose that goes beyond profit. What do we want our legacy to be as an organisation? How are we giving back to society? What do we stand for? They want to know that we’ve prioritised these questions and they’re guiding our choices and practices. Our people are also watching closely to see the position we take on contentious social issues. They expect us to be brave when it counts.

Increasingly, we’re seeing that employees expect their organisations and its leaders to be humble. They look to leaders to balance their needs with the needs of the broader organisation (and society), to really listen, stay grounded, and stay focused on the things that matter.

Real listening goes beyond surveys and pulse checks. One of our PROI UK partners, Tony Langham from Lansons, suggested that we welcome whistleblowers… “as our first line of defence”. In the Four Rooms of Change® we see the whistleblower as the person searching for truth, who is compelled to step out of the organisation to be heard, particularly if he or she believes leaders are in denial about an important issue or issues.

The managing director of our PROI partner Adfactors – Madan Bahal, is a great example of a successful and humble leader. He and his business partner founded Adfactors and it is now India’s largest communication agency. His business philosophy, bahujan hitay, bahujan sukhaye, is rooted in ancient Indian wisdom and means that our actions should be for the ‘good and happiness of all’.

Madan is restless and constantly looking for ways to grow and evolve his business. He is always learning. He cares deeply about his people and he rewards them for conducting good deeds or ‘acts of heroism’ in their day to day lives. 

We have much to learn from leaders like Madan. The words of Confucius may be a useful guide: ‘the superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions’.

Corporate affairs is too often seen as the centre of spin and obfuscation. In today’s world, in which organisations and institutions lack the trust they once earned, corporate affairs must act as the conscience of the organisation, shaping it for better. This requires courage – and it requires us to act for the good and happiness of all that Madan explored with us in Taipei.


PROI Worldwide is the largest independent communication agency, with more than 70 partners in 100 cities across the globe. SenateSHJ is an active partner in the region.