5 Reasons Why Humble Leaders Are Better Leaders
Which single characteristic do you think is common to the most successful business leaders in the world? Great charisma, clear vision, articulate communication, burning passion, thick-skin, a ruthless streak? None of the above!
In his seminal work, Good to Great, leadership consultant Jim Collins and his research team explored the nature of the top executives in the business world. They researched companies who outperformed the rest of the market by (on average) seven times for a sustained period of 15 years. They were astonished by their discovery…
“We were surprised, shocked really, to discover the type of leadership required for turning a good company into a great one. Compared to high-profile leaders with big personalities who make headlines and become celebrities, to good-to-great leaders seem to have come from Mars. Self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy - these leaders are the paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will … We found leaders of this type at the helm of every good-to-great company”
To their surprise humility was the characteristic that marked out these ‘great’ leaders from the rest. Yet in some ways, we shouldn’t be surprised. The greatest leader to have ever walked the earth, ‘did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!’ (Philippians 2:6-8)
Yet his humility did not diminish his influence, on the contrary, thousands of years later, billions of people across the globe still follow his lead!
Humble leaders, it seems, are better leaders. Here are five reasons why…
Humble Leaders Learn More Quickly
Humble leaders will learn and grow at a rate that the proud have no hope of doing. Humble leaders open themselves up to the idea of being wrong, receiving correction and asking others how they think it could be done better. They learn from people regardless of their status, stature or age. They are reflective of their practice and quick to learn from their mistakes. In contrast, “Arrogant managers can over evaluate their current performance and competitive position, listen poorly, and learn slowly.” (J. P. Kotter, Harvard Business School).
In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni argues that one of the main factors that restrict growth is ‘lack of conflict’ in a team. Whilst this may sound counter-intuitive on first hearing, Lencioni suggests that healthy teams have enough trust to say what they are really thinking and feeling. Without this teams lack honest reflection and constructive criticism, which in turn stunts growth.
When you approach your youth team and young people with humility, they experience validation. They experience your interest in what they think. They feel valued because your listening ear communicates that you believe they have something unique and significant to contribute. This encourages open and robust conversation, where team members and young people feel free to ‘say it as they see it’, rather than holding back on their true opinion for fear of upsetting the leader. Easily offended leaders with inflated egos do not encourage honest teams. Allowing constructive criticism and encouraging it at a team level is a powerful way to learn quickly - but it requires a humble leader to create this culture.
Humble Leaders Get The Best From Their Young People
Humble leaders are a launch pad for others to spring from, rather than a ceiling they cannot break through. They take delight in those who were once ‘below’ them going on to bigger and better things than they have ever achieved. And herein lies the nature of true leadership, not to grow in personal influence, but to maximise the potential in others - which inevitably demands they get the credit! When our ego prevents us from relinquishing the spotlight, we become the ceiling that our young people will never surpass. But humble leaders create the opportunity for others to thrive.
Humble Leaders Engender Loyalty
Humble leaders are quick to admit their mistakes, which - contrary to popular belief - actually strengthens a leader’s reputation, rather than damages it. Their authentic vulnerability communicates to their young people that they are imperfect humans too! This endears people to the leader because, whilst our strengths may impress people, our vulnerabilities connect with them. Simply put, they are more likeable! This is why humble leaders engender loyalty in those they lead.
Humble Leaders Are More Persuasive
Much of leadership in youth ministry is about our power of persuasion! We are constantly seeking to persuade people to join our teams, give financially towards our next residential, release funds for our youth programs, engage in our weekly Bible studies, or bring a friend on Friday night. The humble are more persuasive than the arrogant because the key weapon in the arsenal of the persuader is their character. Arrogance is a deterrent, where genuine humility has a way of winning others over.
Humble Leaders Are Fearless Leaders
The fear of failure is often rooted in a fear of losing face. But if you fear failure you stunt innovation. Humble leaders are more comfortable in taking calculated risks because the progress of the ministry is more important than the preserving of their reputation. Humble leaders establish an environment where it’s ok to try and fail – as long as you try. Thus humility cultivates courage, and courage cultivates progress.
My experience is that the young people I work with are often far more courageous and creative than me. Given the right environment, their contributions can be world changing for out youth ministries if we only have the humility to listen. Humble leaders are better leaders.
Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10).
Question: What other benefits are there in a humble leader? Leave a comment below.