We need more of them. Somehow we have slipped into another era of robust and loud leadership, albeit relational. But humble leadership stands out in all settings.
Check out this article from Harvard Business Review for a bit more technical view: https://hbr.org/2017/04/if-humble-people-make-the-best-leaders-why-do-we-fall-for-charismatic-narcissists
Are you humble?
Reflecting on the last week of Lent, referred to as the ‘Passion week’, I am reminded of the power of a humble leader. A person who chooses to be in a place of humility is powerful. It would seem that it should be the opposite, but for as much as we tend to elect and elevate the loud and proud, the humble and resolute stand before us at the end of the story. The passion week of Jesus tells the story of the most powerful individual on earth allowing his story to change the outcomes of many to follow. We have a tendency to desire a heroic conclusion where all the bad people get wiped out and the good guys walk away with the loot.
In this story the leader and inspiration of a movement is humbled. The result? Scores of organizations and individuals influenced and changed by his life and words.
People tend to equate humility with weakness. Interesting. Yes, it is the same word rooted in ‘humiliation’, but it does not reflect the same. The humble are not pushovers. In fact, the most humble individuals I have had the privilege of learning from were the strongest people I knew. The difference is they did not allow the circumstances to dictate their resolve. They were attune with the people in their sphere of influence, but were not maneuvered by the fleeting wishes and selfish desires. They could even make unpopular decisions without loosing their sense of foundation by the reaction.
Just like a building does not move with the weathervane when the wind blows, a humble leader understands but is not swayed by a lack of popularity.
A few things to reflect on this week as we consider the best example of a humble leader:
Humility is from within, not forced upon us We may be humiliated by those around us, or feel as such. But we become humble as we grow through all that life gives us. It is a mindful activity to be humble. Otherwise we can be bitter and hurtful.
Humility is grounded in community At our worst we are individualists, doing only what is best for the person looking at us in the mirror. While we are each unique and special, we are so as part of a greater whole. When we try to separate ourselves we are less than what we could be. That is the beauty of a humble leader; they understand that the people around them all desire to be connected and known.
Humility is a lived trait We live out humility. A humble leader will show it in all their interactions with those around them. The weak will feel elevated, and the strong will let their guard down in this person’s presence. Insecurity does not thrive in this setting.
Humility does not always win But the humble person is not lost in that moment. They are refined, and they continue forward. A leader who has his entire identity wrapped up in that moment will fall apart in disgrace. But the humble tend to show where it hurts, and continue to help others up. In fact, they may not need the win to continue the race.
Humility is exalted Now that is not a word you use too often! But we need to revisit it. I lift the names of people who built me up because they are people that wanted me to succeed. They loved building into me, even when they were hurting. And when they are gone, people lift them up. Even in their failings.
In the coming week I encourage you to make a new practice of evaluating your humility. We like to count our wins and fret over our faults, but what about our ability to be resolved in all circumstances. Or lifting those around us. It is amazing how those people celebrate for having known the humble leader.