Humility is more than a rave, it’s essential in leadership


I have been hearing the terminology of servant leadership a lot, that leaders need to be servant leaders. So what is a servant leader? The terms servant and leader seem to be contradictory, don’t they?

I would suggest this definition: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with an attitude of humility, regard others as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” 

What does that mean? Well, for starters, “nothing” means just that. Stop permitting two strong tendencies – selfishness and conceit – to control you. Conceit can be through factional motives or strife. So, let nothing either of them suggest win a hearing. In one of my October posts, I gave an example of an executive on how pride and ego are a sure recipe to block improvement. People in that group wanted to get away. 

So, what are we supposed to do? Replace them – selfishness and conceit – with humility. Humility is being neither arrogant nor self-righteous. But how? By regarding others as more important than yourself. Look for ways to support, encourage, build up and stimulate the other person. That requires an attitude that would rather give than receive. It’s a preset mentality that determines ahead of time that I will care about others’ needs more than my own. 

As I mentioned in last September’s Leadership Memo, part of a leader’s job is to create and maintain a safe environment (both physically and psychologically) so that people can learn from each other, which include learning from failed experiments, and build networks of competence rather than a top-down hierarchy of authority. When a leader becomes a servant leader based on the definition above, their teams would feel the support, the appreciation and the care, which leads to trust. They would also feel they have the freedom and autonomy to do their work. This is especially needed in this remote working world. I don’t know about you, but I would happily follow a leader who has this mindset!

1 comment

  1. Really like this “…and build networks of competence rather than a top-down hierarchy of authority”. There should be no question that networks of competence are way more powerful and capable than top-down hierarchy.

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