Sunday, September 20, 2009

Humility is Essential to Effective Leadership

Author and leadership guru John Baldoni, believes in the importance of humility in leadership. Here's what he said on his blog recently -

Leaders who want to inspire followership... need to demonstrate not simply their accomplishments but their character... A sense of humility is essential to leadership because it authenticates a person's humanity. We humans are frail creatures, we have our faults. Recognizing what we do well, as well as what we do not do so well, is vital to self awareness and paramount to humility.

Baldoni raises some interesting points and anyone who leads in any capacity should take heed. He reminds us that it's one thing to be in a position of leadership, it's another thing altogether to "inspire followership". The former requires that authority be established but the latter happens only when the leader demonstrates character.

Yet, it wasn't the emphasis on character that drew my attention to Baldoni's blog post - other experts have said similar things. Rather it's his insistence on humility as a necessary character trait for effective leadership that sets Baldoni apart. This is rare. Many leadership experts will gladly mention the importance of character but they tend to focus on integrity or trustworthiness as primary traits. Very few highlight the importance of humility.

Baldoni goes on to list different ways we can demonstrate humility in our role as leaders -

1. Temper authority - don't make "pulling rank" a regular practice but through delegation, allow your subordinates to set priorities and make decisions along the way.

2. Look to promote others - seek to advance and promote others...sometimes at cost to ourselves. When we do this, we are serving our neighbor and seeking his/her good.

3. Acknowledge what others do - this can mean several things like simply saying "thank you" for a job well done or publicly drawing attention to the contribution of others.

Another way that we demonstrate humility everyday is the way we respond when we're wrong. Do we give ourselves a pass or hold ourselves accountable? Interestingly, I was faced with such a temptation this past week, when I harshly corrected a subordinate. I thought he had neglected to respond to an important request I made of him. However, when I retraced my original request, I became aware that I actually addressed the request to someone else. I was completely unjustified in my response!

At that point, I had a choice - either to 'fess up and apologize or simply sweep the whole incident under the rug. Thankfully, I was compelled by the grace of God to humble myself and apologize to him.... and not only to him but to everyone who was aware of my misplaced blame.

The kind of humility God calls us to is otherworldly ... and unattainable apart from His grace at work in our lives. May God work such humility in us, not simply because it'll make us better leaders but more importantly, because it pleases our Savior and King.

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant"


Anonymous said...

good thoughts and story.

Jimmy said...

as i began to read this i immediately thought of the Centurion that sent for Jesus to heal his servant. He did not allow Jesus to enter his home. "just say the words" and then explained that he was a man of authority who understood being under authority. although the Savior highlighted his faith, i think it also highlighted his leadership. leaders are not born into leadership positions, good leaders remember where they came from, remember what type of leader helped and/or hindered his career advancement/productivity and remembered what made working for the leader enjoyable. I have always thought that retention is job #1 for a leader.
My best and most effective leaders were humble people and leaders who remembered where they came from

Every Square Inch said...

nAncy - thanks for stopping by. Glad you benefited from it

Jimmy - remembering who we are and where we came from... good thoughts to meditate on. Isn't it interesting that a renown leadership expert like Baldoni is echoing your experience of what makes for an effective leader?

Halfmom said...

working with someone who is excellent and humble at the same time is really great - and there's a certain element of that where I am at present. I think more than anything else, it inspires loyalty in me - their humility and lack of self-promotion make me want to make them look better through my work.

Craver Vii said...

Man, that's a tough lesson.

Every Square Inch said...

Susan - sounds like you landed in a great work environment.

Craver - gotta love the opportunities God brings our way to learn humility. :-)

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, I'm glad humility is spoken of here in the context of Jesus and of following him. And excellent points indeed. Anything other than a Christian humility is worldly and to be shunned, I'm sorry to say. Because the bottom line is different. I've seen that firsthand, at least in my mind, and it isn't pretty.

There simply needs to be an ongoing humility toward God through Christ and that needs to be active for any humility to mean anything. Otherwise those who follow the ones with the defective humility become like them, or others in reaction agaisnt that, can fail as well.

Diana Guess said...
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