My job is pretty awesome. I get to work with great leaders all day, everyday. Most of whom you will never hear of because they are not famous. However, they are leading effectively and having an impact in the lives of others. They demonstrate the power of humility.
I have had the privilege of meeting some pretty spectacular leaders in my life. Some are well-known around the world while others are only known by a few. It makes no difference whether they are a celebrity or not. Popularity is not important to me, humility is important. Humility is the fulcrum of great leadership. Hubris is fatal to leadership.
Observation: Looking for what is important
When I meet a leader for the first time, I go into observation mode. I watch and listen. How they treat me is of little importance. But, how they interact with the waiter at lunch or their assistant or spouse is of monumental importance. I love confidence in a leader. However, when I find their confidence is undergirded by a humble spirit, I’m pretty much on board! I’m going to engage, listen and respond with ‘how can I help?’ or encouragement.
Words say a lot
How a leader refers to themselves in relation to others is important. Do they speak in terms of ‘me vs. them’ when talking about their team? Are they willing to be vulnerable and transparent, willing to communicate failures with a smile and a chuckle? When they talk about loss, is there tear in their eye? Do they genuinely elevate and esteem others?
The power of humility cannot be manufactured. However, it can be cultivated. In the depths of humility, confidence in leadership is found.
Do you want to be a good leader?
Learn the value of humility, cultivate it and integrated it into every part of your life. The power of humility is at the core of great leadership and it acts as a magnet drawing in others. Humility is also a compass that reminds you of your own brokeness. We should strive to be truly humble.
What does the power of humility look like?
One of the best examples comes from the bible when Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.
“Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him….
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:3-5, 12-17).
Paul describes Christ’s humility in Philippians 2. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
How do we cultivate humility?
Discover your motives and measure your responses
- Are you using humility as a cover for selfishness?
- Who’s interest do you really have in mind? Yours or someone else?
- Are you teachable?
- How do you respond when things do not turn out the way you intended? Do you lash out or become bitter?
- Do you gossip about other leaders or team members?
Find ways to set aside self
- What can I give up today for the benefit of someone else?
- How can I quietly, perhaps anonymously use my talent, resources and influence to help someone else accomplish something important in their life?
- Think about how limited your time is in this life. Death is the great equalizer and it is a friend of humility. What would I do or say to someone else today if I knew it would be my last?
- Pray. When we humble ourselves before a holy, all powerful and loving God, we realize our finitude and dependency.
“Grow likewise in humility. Seek to lie very low, and know more of your own nothingness. As you grow downward in humility, seek also to grow upward… Abide hard by the Cross (of Jesus Christ), and search the mystery of his wounds.” (Charles Spurgeon).
Humility is incredibly important. It leaves you open to knowledge and consideration of the other point of you, it tests yourself and pushes your boundaries. It also makes you more aware of your own limitations and the limitations of others. I would add it is also important for ‘firms’. The company that holds humility, is open to innovation, pushes itself through criticism and looks to infuse other points of view within its own dynamism. It is the essence of resilience.