The Authority of Humility

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

This article has been provided by our guest blogger Pam Warren, The Change and Disruption Expert.

Is it possible to be an effective, successful and influential leader while being humble? There is strong evidence out there that would indicate that it is impossible to be a great leader without possessing humility.

Humility is an often misunderstood concept. It does not mean you have to have a low opinion of your own importance nor does it mean being painfully modest. Humility is having the ability to concentrate on what you can give rather than what you can get.

Humble leaders are driven by wanting to encourage and receive input from their teams. To listen to opposing views and flexing their own views where warranted. Being able to admit that they do not always have or know the right answer nor the correct path to take. They draw from the expertise of those around them to move an organisation forwards. They have to be open to new ideas and innovations but have the wisdom to assess the potential and validity of these before developing them. Their own humility will recognise when someone is showing promise and they will do everything they can to help that person develop and grow even if it means that person will eventually surpass them.

Arrogance versus humility

In contrast, leaders who do not possess humility are very certain of themselves and their views and will not hear anything said or done against them. They ignore any evidence or ideas that conflict with their own and are not prepared to re-think their strategy to accommodate new thinking that may come along or develop.

More often than not, subconsciously, leaders with little or no humility feel constantly under threat from others and are more likely to undermine or move against anyone who questions them. This position of arrogant authority is often mistaken for strength, but it leads to discord amongst those working in the organisation and frequently leads to high staff turnover.

The humility of the nomads

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with Anthony Willoughby who I can only describe as a real life adventurer. Some of his exploits he imparted to me could easily rank alongside the likes of Sir Ranulph Fiennes or Edmund Hillary. However, he was really explaining to me the work he does with leaders utilising the skills of nomads primarily in Mongolia and Africa. Nomads know no other way to behave other than with humility, it is essential to their survival.

As a beautiful example of exactly this Anthony explained how (I paraphrase), if you ask a nomadic tribe to ‘take me to your leader’ they will look at you expectantly. ‘We are all leaders. What is it you are trying to achieve and we will point you to the leader who has the experience/knowledge to help you’. Hierarchy is simply an unknown notion to a nomad. For more about Anthony Willoughby see his website.

Back in our world it is a humble leader who achieves development and growth and that in turn enables those around them to do the same. Humility is a lesson many leaders would do well to learn. It’s so essential, let’s see more of it and bring our humble leaders forward.

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