Leadership and Humility

Humility and Leadership rarely are associated together but a leader must learn to be humble

Humility and Leadership rarely are associated together but a leader must learn to be humble

photo by BUR?BLUE

When you do a word association with humility, leadership probably does not pop into your head. A leader should be great, glorious, and confident right? If their confidence leads them to be prideful well then so be it.  It’s probably OK for someone to be a little prideful if they have earned the right to be prideful.   Well not according to Jesus and many others in recent history who have studied truly great leaders.

Take a look at the example Jesus left for us at the last supper. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus did something extraordinary; He got up, got a towel and water, and began to wash the feet of each of His followers. In that time only a servant, and the humblest of servants at that, washed people’s feet. Yet Jesus did this to show us what a leader should really look like. He showed us that a leader needs to be thinking and serving those who follow them. They need to put their follower’s needs ahead of their own. A leader has incredible responsibility, and one of them is to make sure that the needs of those entrusted to him or her are taken care of.

When a leader is humble and takes time to look after the needs of those following them, then the followers will be more willing and able to follow and do whatever needs to be done to accomplish the goal at hand.

Especially today, humility is not a popular trait.  Somehow William Bennet left it out of his best seller The Book of Virtues.  Maybe there were not enough stories of a humble protagonist, or maybe humility does not sell.  :-)   If a leader does not continue to pursue humility it is likely they will soon become prideful and fall into traps caused by the sin of pride.  A humble leader accepts the council of others and grows from it.

I once heard the phrase that humility is not thinking less of yourself it is not thinking of yourself at all.  President’s Lincoln and Reagan both modeled this characteristic of humility well.  Nancy Reagan said of President Reagan that he had no ego.  He was not concerned about himself.  Though many great leaders are attributed with the quote “You can get a lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”  It was certainly an opinion that Reagan voiced often and probably helped to keep him humble as he made his way up the ladder of success.

If you want to pursue humility it helps to keep your focus on Christ who was humble despite being God.  It helps to give away all the credit you can.  It also helps to receive encouragement and praise with a simple “Thank You.” or “Praise God.”  A false humility that says, “Oh it was nothing.”  Simply causes the giver of the praise to have to offer more or justify their original statement, whereas a thank you or focus on God causes the attention to go back to that person or to God.

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The U.S. Army’s 11 Leadership Principles

The Statue of Liberty - Standing as a Leader

The Statue of Liberty - Standing as a Leader

photo by Torley

Leadership in the military is vital for completing the mission. The military has become known for its development of great leaders. Many presidents were also military men, and a large quantity of other influential people began by serving in the US Military. The US Army put together 11 principles for its leaders to follow. These are valuable principles that every leader, both military and civilian, can learn from. Here are the 11 US Army Leadership Principles and their application to civilian leadership.

1. Be tactically and technically proficient – In whatever business or profession you are in, aim to be the best, or at least have a good understanding of it. If that means doing a little studying, so be it, as long as you set an example of proficiency.

2. Know yourself and seek self-improvement – know your capabilities, but don’t stop there, try to improve on your skills and strengths. Learning is a lifelong task that you should continue no matter what you are doing.

3. Know your soldiers and look out for their welfare – this applies to anyone under you. Take time to get to know them and look out for their health and wellbeing. They will notice you genuinely care about them and probably perform better.

4. Keep your soldiers informed – tell those you follow you what your plans are, accept their insight and suggestions, make them apart of the planning. When someone has a role in planning, they take greater responsibility in its execution. Don’t keep people in the dark about things.

5. Set the example – in everything you do you must do it well and set a good example. You never know what kind of an effect you might have on those under you and one small poor decision might mean the loss of their respect and desire to follow you.

6. Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished – make sure you give clear instructions, ask for feedback on what your followers think you said. Have patience if they don’t quite get what you are trying to communicate. And, of course, supervise to be sure a task is completed, but do it in such a way so that you aren’t hovering above people ready to jump on them when they make a mistake.

7. Train your soldiers as a team – create community and teamwork. Help everyone work together. Take time to do team building exercises. When a group of people work as a team, they work much more quickly, and effectively.

8. Make sound and timely decisions – this one is up to you. You need to make decisions and stick with them. Don’t shy away from making decisions, but look at the options and then make the best choice.

9. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates – part of this is simply sharing responsibility with those under you. Delegate certain jobs and small tasks. Let others oversee certain activities. In this way, you will be training up new leaders.

10. Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities – don’t overstretch or overuse those who are following you. Everyone has limitations, find what the limitations of your followers are, and then try to avoid exceeding them.

11. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions – ultimately you are responsible. If something good happens, you are responsible, and if something bad happens, you are also responsible. Taking responsibility for things is a key trait of a leader, and fatal flaw if neglected. Be sure to always take responsibility for not only your actions, but also those of anyone under you.

These are powerful principles that could radically change the way you lead. Take some time to evaluate your own leadership and compare to see where you are doing well, and where you are lacking. The object of all of this is to be the best leader you can be. Now go and be a leader.