See my images at Zazzle

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ten Characteristics of a Humble Leader

We are all called to leadership and as human beings all capable of fulfilling the role, whether we do it through self leadership, leadership within a small group or leadership in a much larger way. Humility does not seem to part of leadership as it is often misconstrued as a lack of self confidence. By conventional terms a leader, in order to be successful in this world needs to be bold, to strike out, draw blood and not show doubt or misgivings. Rather than demonstrating humility, a leader has to show great control, lightning fast decision-making skills and omnipresent information skills. No wonder taking on the role of leadership for most people is discounted, ignored and shunned as part of their makeup.

Though at one time the model of the all powerful leader was the norm in the large hierarchical organizations that dominated the last century, today it cannot be the only way. In may instances we can no longer have one person at the helm of a ship on a journey that is not a route, fixed stars are not our only point for navigation and the crew cannot be trained to only perform the functions for which they were trained. We need the full array of skills available from everyone at hand. You cannot train for an unknown future or that which at present does not exist. We can only acquire a humble, modest sense of self that allows us to adapt.

In an article entitled, Humility: The Most Beautiful Word in the English Language, y Bruna Martinuzz the author draws from the dictionary definition of humility as modesty, “…lacking pretence, not believing that you are superior to others” versus “Having a lowly opinion of oneself, meekness”. The contrast between embracing humility and avoiding it is based on which definition we choose - - modesty (lacking pretence) or timidity (having a lowly opinion of oneself). She embraces modest humility and supports her case with examples from the book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. Ten characteristics of successful, modest humility in leadership from her article are as follows:

  1. Directs ego away from self toward larger goals
  2. Realizes no one individual knows it all and therefore seeks input from others
  3. Recognizes others contributions
  4. Treats all with respect
  5. Shuns public adulation
  6. Self effacing
  7. Aggressive about growth
  8. Not arrogant
  9. Not boastful
  10. Quiet

To summarize, the humble leader is successful by redirecting credit and fully taking responsibility for results. I thought this article was great. To read more of Bruna's thinking on this subject as well as how to practice humility, see her article at