Several months ago I blogged about how an on-line discussion thread sought to define leadership in one word (see 19,731 Definitions of Leadership). It was an interesting idea even though it is an impossible task. Leadership is far too complex and interdisciplinary to be summed up in one word. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t possess a preference for certain aspects of leadership. Some of you may value a leader who is strong in communication; others look for those who have a genuine concern for people, while some will prefer a gifted strategist.
I also have a favorite leadership quality. It took me many years to realize how much I valued it. In fact, it likely became more significant as I grew older. It’s a very common and simple practice and it’s called,
h u m i l i t y .
When I first typed this word I used capital letters and put it in bold. But it just didn’t fit because….well…. because it’s humility. It’s not supposed to be in flashing lights, fancy fonts or bold letters. By definition, humility is having a modest view of one’s own importance. St. Barnard once stated that humility is “a virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself”. It is a noble and challenging goal. Perhaps this is even more true in a digital age which encourages us to self-promote ourselves and create on-line identities that are far larger-than-life.
However, the people I really like to spend time with are humble. They include people like Sarah who hired me to coach her because she thinks she has blind spots that are holding her back. You need to be honest and humble to say that! Or it includes the community leader who I just discovered had a doctorate. When I met with him he made me feel like the smartest guy in the room. But I wasn’t. Somehow, the attitude of humble people creates a space that others need. And as er practice humility, it coaxes the best out of others. While I cannot logically explain it, I’m at my best around humble people. That’s why humility is my favorite leadership quality.
Humility is often seen as a virtue in leadership, but what does it actually mean to be humble in this context?
At its core, humility is about putting the needs and interests of others before your own. It involves being open-minded, willing to listen and learn from others, and recognizing that you are not infallible or always right.
The humble leader is also able to take constructive criticism without getting defensive, and can see failure as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than something to be ashamed of.
While humility is not always easy, it can be a very effective leadership quality. Humble leaders are often more approachable and likable, and they are better able to build strong relationships with those they lead. Additionally, having a humble mindset can help leaders avoid the pitfalls of ego and power, and make them better equipped to navigate difficult situations and decisions.
As such, cultivating humility in leadership is an important skill for anyone looking to succeed in this role. Whether you are just starting out as a leader or have been in the role for many years, making a conscious effort to be more humble can benefit you and those you lead in many ways.
How about you? What is your favorite?
As you assess the things that you value in a leader, it may help you to reference my triadic model of leadership. This simple diagram outlines three key ingredients of leadership:
The topic of this blog reflects the theme of ‘who’. Humility is an aspect of the DNA of a leader – who she or he is. I encourage you to write down the two or three things that come to mind when you consider your favorite leadership qualities. Often they reflect a particular corner. This simple little test often reveals a lot about what you value in leaders.
The mic is now yours. So what’s your favorite leadership quality? And why?
After writing this introspective blog, Jeff Suderman decided to forgo his usual bio. He’s not very humble but he’s trying! Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: email@example.com