Humility In Leadership

Used with permission:

Used with permission:

Somewhat recently, I was asked what I believed to be the most important trait of a successful leader. There are lot’s of ways to answer this question, of course, but I’m convinced one of them is the vital role of humility.

Humble leaders are impactful leaders. Humble leaders are empowering leaders. This is true in any business venture, but it is especially and profoundly powerful in the church.

Over the years, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with, observe, and be impacted by wonderful humble leaders.

These individuals sought something greater than their own sense of worth or well being. Rather than hog the glory, they selflessly passed it on to others without hesitation.

They understood the gift and privilege of leading others, and realized that the better they lead themselves, the more this transfers to their followers. I’ve never forgotten this lesson.

Humility is many things in life and leadership. First and foremost, however, it is the recognition that we don’t have all the answers… and that’s okay.

Humility is the deliberate choice–perhaps even every day–to focus on what matters most. It’s a seriousness about the task at hand, but also a levity that doesn’t take anything too seriously.

Humble leaders are playful leaders. They laugh at their own mistakes, admit their misgivings, and are not afraid to ask for help from their peers.

I’ve been noticing a lot in my context lately that humility is also empowering for other people. When the leader can be vulnerable and transparent, it unleashes everyone else to do the same. Further, it reminds all of us of the need for community. After all, no one can lead alone.

Humility is also a reinforcement for the kind of leadership that Jesus led with. He was God, so, you know, he knew things. Even a cursory reading of the gospels reveal that he had answers and a vision that was outside the scope of his follower’s understanding.

And yet, his posture of a servant took precedence. Jesus’ entire ministry was one epic illustration of humility. It was the words he spoke, the people he saw and spent time with, the way he pointed others to the Father, and his sacrifice.

Jesus understood that humility is about perspective. It’s a reminder of who we are and who we represent.

Jesus was about the Father’s business and this was always at the forefront of his mind. He came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

In our own leadership circles, have we unleashed the power of humility? Do we see each other as partners, not merely positions in a hierarchal set up? If we hope to make any kind of lasting impact in our leadership, it’s going to be begin with a humble demeanor and outlook.

Now, humility doesn’t mean we never have the answers or that we should never speak our mind or share an opinion. Leaders have to make tough calls at times.

People will look to us to give our direction and share our vision. But in this, can we find the peace of leading in grace and humility?

If our goal in leadership is to equip others for the task of leading themselves, then being humble is a nonnegotiable trait. It is within this space of humility that we can realize the big picture.

And the big picture of leadership is to realize it’s not about you as the leader. It’s about those you are leading.

Humble leaders recognize who is at their table. They understand the gift of partnerships and the importance of having a lot of voices being spoken and recognized. One of the worse things a leader can do is believe, even for a second, that they don’t need the input of those around them.

Over the years, I’ve never believed myself to be this super strong, naturally born leader. I’ve never been comfortable with that title. Command is not a strength of mine. Barking orders feels, I don’t know, not like me.

I think for a while I bought into the lie that successful leaders are strictly type A individuals who crack the whip and watch the ripples of action take place when the proverbial stone is thrown out into the pond.

But this isn’t the only way to lead.

Leadership looks different depending on the individual leader and their context, and one can still accomplish a great deal by choosing to be a grace-filled, joyful, and encouraging leader.

At the end of the day, I’d rather be humble, than self-assured. I’d rather seek input, than the rattling off of my own ideas all the time. And I’d rather empower others to be involved, and not make it all about me.

Humility is the path to build a team that will last and grow and thrive, even in your absence.

There are a lot of important traits when it comes to leadership. But maybe the best place to start is here. Stephen Covey and John Maxwell and other leadership gurus have a lot to teach us, but the most important question I believe we can ask in leadership is simply: How can we lead like Jesus?

How can we best help those we’re blessed to lead develop and become better leaders? Perhaps it starts with forging a path forward paved with a humble attitude, mindset, and a leadership style founded on taking the focus off of us and placing it where it belongs.

Humble leaders change their teams and the world.

Let’s not shy away from leading with this kind of grace and compassion.

Let’s remember to step out of the spotlight so Jesus can step into it.

Let’s commit to leading like Jesus–full of humility.


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  1. I really like the part about you don’t need to be Type-A to be a leader. They might be the loud leaders that get the most attention, but the ideas of quiet people can be just as good.

    Admitting that you don’t have all the answers is really inviting. It gives people space to have an opinion and join the discussion. And since we’re not very loud, there’s plenty of room for other voices. :)

    • In my experience, quiet leaders are sometimes the most insightful and best equipped to actually lead. :) Also, as a follower, there is something so freeing when humility is displayed from the outset. It makes you want to join the team and get things done.

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