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Humility: A Humble, Anarchistic Inquiry

Jan 5, 2021 by Ari Weinzweig 1 Comment




Humility of business leaders


While the world focuses on blaring headlines and dramatic confrontations, humility continues on quietly—but meaningfully—behind the scenes, and away from the spotlight. In his new pamphlet, “Humility: A Humble, Anarchistic Inquiry,” Zingerman’s co-founder Ari Weinzweig shares his two-year-long inquiry into how the gentle art of humility can bring out our humanness, elevate organizational effectiveness, enhance leadership, and enrich quality of life. 

Humility, Ari suggests, is subtle, but significant. While it may be easy to miss in the moment, in the long run it’s hugely important to our health and humanity. As Ari writes:

Mozart once said, “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” Humility fits that frame. It’s the space between the sounds. The whisper between the words. The energy between the egos. Humility is both ethereal and essential. Like great music, it’s hard to measure—and often goes past unnoticed by casual listeners. But if we pay close attention, we can begin to benefit from the beauty and grace that humility brings to the world.

As he usually does in his writing, Ari weaves together the insights of business leaders, anarchist authors, artists, poets, philosophers, and historians to show the positive impact humility can have in all aspects of our lives. Emita Hill, author, and former Vice President at Lehman College, City University of New York, says of the new release:

Author already of numerous books on aspects of leadership—recognized internationally for his own leadership, his creativity, his humanity—what I applaud here and throughout Ari’s work is the sense that he’s always seeking, always studying, always reflecting, always raising the bar for himself and for others. And, as in this essay, always reaching out and sharing his thoughts with anyone ready to learn and eager to become “ever more effective leaders.”

Professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, Dr. Wayne Baker, says:

In this deeply thoughtful piece, Ari takes us on a journey to explore the concept and practice of humility in the workplace and in life. A humble leader himself, he demonstrates by example that humility means recognizing, appreciating, and supporting the uniqueness of each individual. He shares 16 practices that support a humble workplace in which people thrive and the organization performs at the highest levels.

Does the subtle, gentle presence of humility have much value when the country is in crisis? On its own, we know, humility won’t cure Coronavirus. But, Ari proposes, it might well have altered the way we as a nation have—and will, still—respond to the pandemic and other problems at hand. Ari posits:

Humility leads us to be more open to the input and help of others. It makes it easier to meaningfully say, “I don’t know.” It increases the likelihood that we will own our responsibility for our errors. It improves the odds we will take the advice of experts who know more than we do seriously, even while still making our own decisions (and sometimes, respectfully going against what experts advise). Humility makes it more difficult to be curt and dismissive. More difficult to be curtly dismissed. And harder to say, “I don’t care.”

Will humility have an impact on our other recovery? The rebuilding of social trust and mutual respect? Ari answers, adamantly, in the affirmative. Humility, he suggests, is incompatible with racism, hierarchy, and hatred. And it's a prerequisite for the kind of collaborative, caring communities and organizations we’re working to create. More specifically, he says:

When we approach the world from a place of humility, it makes it much more likely that we will:

- own our own part in creating the problem with which we’re confronted,

- acknowledge our shortfalls and ask for help,

- understand that none of us have all the answers,

- treat everyone we interact with, with dignity,

- and be much more open to outside perspectives and creative insights

Writer Peter Block says, “Ari’s excellent writing on humility is sorely needed in our world of commerce and society. Humility is the future of leadership, although hard to imagine at this moment. Ari is both an entrepreneur in the hard to sustain world of restaurants, and also a philosopher, and an intellectual voice for ideas that shift your thinking and thereby reconstruct your life. All that he writes is a reminder that our deepest longings and aspirations are best brought to being in the fire of the marketplace. He also, by the way, as a friend, embodies the humility he writes about.” And writing from Amsterdam, founder and CEO of Rise and Lead in Amsterdam, Ebere Akadiri, calls the new pamphlet, “An eye opening, truth telling full analysis on a subject that is so important to our success in life, and yet very often ignored or misunderstood. The pamphlet opened my eyes to the importance of humility for leaders and how it can be applied in leading a successful team.”


In the inflammatory state of national discourse, humility is a calm but effective voice leading us away from ego, and in the direction of much needed doses of dignity, inclusion, reflection and respect. Our future may depend on it. As Wendell Berry writes: “It is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it.” 

"Humility; A Humble, Anarchistic Inquiry" is available online at

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Topics: Communication, Leadership, Morale, Employee Recruitment and Retention, work environment

Ari Weinzweig
Written by Ari Weinzweig

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman's Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches. Today, Zingerman's Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman's Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 700 employees and over $60 million in annual revenue.

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