What does “leading with humility” mean?


Standing by itself, the word radiates “quiet confidence”.

It exudes strength.

Humility is self-confidence without arrogance.  Humility is modesty and restraint without the destructive effects of out-sized hubris.  Humility is courage.  It is the willingness to admit mistakes and seek out guidance.  Humility is self-respect without excessive self-promotion.  Humility is the triumph of competence over bravado.

Humility is not weak or meek.

It does not mean shy or insecure.  It is not being timid, reserved, reticent, or diffident.

Humility is authenticity.  Humility is self-awareness.  It is recognizing one’s strengths and limitations.  It is the ability to say, “I don’t know.”

It is quite simply the willingness to put others first.

Maybe C.S. Lewis said it best, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking about yourself less.”

What does “leading with humility” mean?

A humble leader is confident, not arrogant.  A humble leader projects patience, not pomposity.  A humble leader will look for ways to ‘shine the spotlight’ on others’ contributions without the obsessive need to draw attention to their own accomplishments.

A humble leader will treat others with respect and decency.

A humble leader will lead by deeds… not by words alone.

How can you develop or enhance Humility?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Share the credit… Accept the blame

Paul “Bear” Bryant, the legendary University of Alabama football coach, captured this idea perfectly when he said, “If anything goes bad, I did it.  If anything goes semi-good, we did it.  If anything goes really good, then you did it.  That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you.”

  • Embrace these three magical phrases:
  • “I don’t know”
  • “Help me understand”
  • “You’re right!”
  • Admit your mistakes

Apologies (real… sincere apologies) demonstrate strength of character, respect for others, and a desire to learn

  • Solicit feedback

It takes real humility and a healthy dose of self-confidence to ask:

“How am I doing?”

  • Recognize that Good Questions can be more powerful than Questionable Answers

Seek out the opinions and thoughts of others… ask questions… listen.

Be careful not to fall in love with the sound of your own voice.

  • Treat all people with respect and decency, regardless of their position in life

Say “Please” and “Thank you!”  till it hurts

Quotes on Humility:

“Don’t worry when you are not recognized
But strive to be worthy of recognition.” — Abraham Lincoln

“Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Sense shines with a double luster when it is set in humility.  An able and yet humble man is a jewel worth a kingdom.” — William Penn

“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” — Benjamin Franklin

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom.  It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” — Mohandas Gandhi

“And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” — Matthew 23:12

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