Qualities of Leadership: Humility

humility-road-sign-1The next leadership quality in my list is humility.  This term is frequently misinterpreted — that it means weakness or the inability to make decisions.  There could be nothing further from the truth. Humility has more to do with how you view yourself in relation to those around you than about your abilities.

There are those that would say that leadership and humility are contradictory — a leader can’t be humble and still get the job done.  If we look at one classic definition of leadership:

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

The focus of leadership is not on the job, but on the people.  If it were simply getting the job done, the team is only useful as a means to accomplish the task — if that much.  A leader who emphasizes the task over the team — taking credit for their accomplishments — will wear out his team, driving them away when they cannot put up with it any longer.

Yes, the work must get done; otherwise nobody is successful — that is the responsibility of the leader.  The bigger responsibility for the leader is taking care of the team.  The leader should be providing encouragement — praising them directly for good work and ensuring that they get the credit for a job well done.  Leaders should be holding the spotlight for their people, not standing in it.  The common label for this is servant leadership, a topic I  will cover in a future post.

This respect for the team will help build respect for the leader — a self-reinforcing relationship that will build a strong team.  Some leaders react poorly to their team’s respect — believing that it is deserved (not earned), becoming aloof and alienating the team.  I’m not saying that leaders should be “just one of the guys” — that is bad for general discipline in an organization — but there needs to be a good level of camaraderie built on mutual respect and the acknowledgement of the respective roles: as with most things, there needs to be balance.

A leader who focuses his attention, actions, and motives primarily on himself cannot hope to have as much success as a leader who demonstrates humility, deflecting the recognition of success to the team, where it belongs.


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