The great ones have it!
Images of Humility
A CEO of a global tech company washes dishes in the staff kitchen. The head of a billion dollar off shore drilling operation gives his personal phone number to 400 rig workers. A company chairman, his hands black with grease, sits quietly drinking coffee with workers after helping fix a troublesome piece of earthmoving equipment. The greatest rugby league player of all time, cleans the dressing rooms after a game.
These are the images that come to mind when I think of Leadership and Humility and while they might seem small, perhaps insignificant, they reflect a deep personal strength, fundamental to great Leadership.
What is so important about humility and Leadership? Three things come to mind.
Selflessness has become a bit of an overused term to describe sound leadership, but that doesn’t diminish its significance. True selflessness is not easy and it is rare. To say you think first about your team and less about yourself rolls of the tongue freely. Doing it is tougher.
It’s means giving yourself completely to the task at hand and devoting yourself to the welfare of the team. Understanding you are only one part of a group with a common objective. No more no less. You have a role to play, the same as everyone else. Your responsibility just happens to be that of the leader.
This selfless ability to put others first seems to bring with it a direct, almost personal connection with the people they are leading. Their interaction with employees or team members seems to come easily to them. It’s relaxed and genuine, an extension of selflessness.
Perhaps they were once in a similar position themselves, or they have an exceptional ability to understand, to truly put themselves in the place of others. Regardless, the way they interact with their teams builds strong, resilient connections with the people they lead.
Humility carries with it this unique characteristic of acceptance. An ability to see and accept things as they are, rather than worry and stress about the way they want them to be. Humility brings with it a sense of calm and composure.
These Leaders see things in context and are rarely swayed by events good or bad. They have an ability to stay focused on improvement and creating the environment for success. Placing people in a position where they can be at their best and continually striving to improve themselves. Their view is of a big picture, something more important than themselves.
Finally, you might think humility or being humble implies weakness. That in some way you are being soft.
Ric Charlesworth the great Australian Women’s hockey coach, once answered a question at a Business Conference about the reason behind the success of the Hockeyroos over a long period of time.
“Some people have asked what set us apart from our competition. In my mind, the defining characteristic was humility. Humility says there is room for improvement.”
“Humility does not imply shyness or lack of belief in what can be achieved. It does not suggest a lack of ambition. It is a state of being objective about yourself and your performance and is entirely consistent with being optimistic about the future.
It provides a platform for learning and development.”
You can’t say it better than that.