Leaders have many great qualities but there is one secret sauce that makes few list but is evident in the truly trans-generational, transformative leaders.
Today’s confessional: I hate being laughed at. Or at least I used to. I mean, cringe inside, feel sick about it for days, don’t-sleep-at-night-dislike being laughed at. I’ve talked with a counselor and identified some triggers from my past and dealt with them. But I am still not there.
Maybe because I always felt a little awkward growing up. Awkward around the cute girls, hey, all girls. Awkward around those who had more money than me. I think I covered it well, but I hated to be embarrassed.
Except I have the ability to say the wrong thing,
… at the right time,
I think I cover it well, with self-deprecating humor and jokes at my own expense. No one can laugh at you if they are laughing with you, right? But foot in mouth disease? I have it.
But the Christian scriptures are pretty clear about one thing. Pride leads to all sorts of real evil. And humility is the answer. Humility. Being laughed at is a problem to my pride.
Why doesn’t leadership teaching revolve around humility? The ancients were frequent commenters on the topic. (Maybe because if we teach on it, we might be accountable to it?)
Ethnic pride or Racial pride is always ugly when we see it in others. The problem is that we can’t see it in the mirror. The US is going through a rough reckoning at this time because of this issue. And as the pendulum swings, both sides see the other, and the images in the mirror are difficult to discern when they are broken with bricks.
In leadership, our heroes are the go getters, the mountain climbers, the conquerors. Characteristics of leadership rarely lead with humble. The humble are rarely touted, maybe because the humble have figured out how NOT to be in the limelight, how NOT to be recognized, how NOT to get credit. And in an era of intellectual property rights, of followers, likes and shares, humility is being relegated to invisibility. This would appear to be the worst possible scenario in today’s world.
Yet look at the history of world impact leaders.
Joseph, 22 years between dreams and world leadership. Invisible.
Moses: 40 years in the desert. Forgotten.
David: 13 years between the giant and the crown. Failure.
Paul: those strange years in the desert, the two years in jail at the height of his ministry.
Jesus: 33 years at least from angelic proclamation to Jerusalem welcome. Hidden.
But look beyond the years and you will see
The humbling of slavery
The humbling of banishment
The humbling of hiding
The humbling of being wrong
The humbling of being human
God opposes the proud but give GRACE to the humble.
Great, I believe you. Now what, or so what? How do we become humble?
I don’t know. I have some ideas for leaders though. How do I humble myself.
- Humble Leaders intentionally and consistently place themselves in positions where they are not the most powerful person in the room. Ignorance is humility pill that taken with a swig of grace can be a powerful antidote to pride.
- Humble Leaders practice the art of not having the last word.
- Humble Leaders practice the art of always giving credit to others.
- Humble Leaders listen long and speak little. This is the hardest thing for me.
- Humble leaders chose to serve those who can not reward them.
- Humble leaders admit when they were wrong, and share where they have changed.
- Humble leaders genuinely believe that others are better than them. Yes, you heard that. They genuinely believe it. They are very aware of serendipity and grace and timing.
- Humble leaders can handle the spotlight specifically because they are ok without it. Their interior light shines brighter than the spotlight.
In a world that being known and being famous have now become aspirations, truly great leaders will only be famous to a few.