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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