Many years ago, a rider came across some soldiers who were trying to move a heavy log without success. The corporal was standing by as the men struggled. The rider asked the corporal why he wasn’t helping. The corporal replied, “I am the corporal; I give orders.” The rider dismounted, went up and stood by the soldiers and as they were lifting the log, he helped them. With his help, the log got moved. The rider quietly mounted his horse and went to the corporal and said, “The next time your men need help, send for the Commander-in-Chief.” After he left, the corporal and his men found out that the rider was George Washington.
The message is pretty clear. Success and humility go hand in hand. The most successful leaders have a blend of humility and a drive to achieve the vision.
When it comes to leadership there are so many important qualities. However, I believe that humility is the foundation for all the other qualities.
People want to follow leaders who are confident in their direction and capabilities, and can make a decision. People also want to follow leaders who know who they are, and are comfortable in their own skin. But there’s a point at which confidence can slip into overconfidence. The Greek word, hubris, means “dangerous overconfidence” and “exaggerated pride.” Confidence without humility leads to hubris. There is a line that any leader can cross if they don’t embrace humility.
I believe humility is all about mindsets. Here are some key mindsets that drive the actions of a humble leader:
- Serve others – When we have the mindset that we are here to serve other people it keeps us humble. True humility is thinking about other people more than you think about yourself. That is a difficult thing to do, because we all think about ourselves all the time. But a mindset of serving others keeps us more aware of the needs of the people around us. It helps us to think about how we can lift others up, and help them in meaningful ways. It’s a desire to improve the lives of the people around us.
- Listening – The listening mindset goes along with serving others. If we are not listening to the people around us it is impossible to be humble. It’s also difficult to serve others if we don’t listen with the intent of understanding them better and how we can best serve that person. Listening shows that we care and really want know the best way we can help or serve that person.
- Self Awareness – This mindset helps us to be aware of our strengths and our weaknesses. A humble self-aware leader will ask for help and honest feedback. When we ask for help in areas we are weak or struggling in, it shows that we are aware that we cannot do everything on our own. When we ask for feedback it shows that we are aware that we can get better and learn from others. A self-aware mindset also allows us to admit when we are wrong and to ask for forgiveness.
- Adding value to others – a mindset of adding value to others goes to the heart of investing in other people to help them get better, heal from past hurts, and draw out the best in them. Humble leaders are always thinking about ways they can add value into the lives of the people around them.
- Grateful – A grateful mindset helps us to be aware of the many blessings in our lives, and to be thankful for everything that God and others have done to improve our own lives. Humble leaders are grateful for what has been entrusted to them, and therefore are good stewards of what they are given.
I could keep going with other mindsets that humble leaders have, but this lays a good foundation for anyone that wants to be a better leader at work, home, school or community. Think about what your mindset is like when it comes to leadership and humility. Non of us have arrived and are perfect in this area of humility. We are all a work in process, and when we can learn from our failures, ask questions and listen well, it helps us to add value to others and to be grateful for what we have.