The humble leader
Leadership humbles you. If this isn’t the case, leadership becomes dangerous. Leadership is necessary in life, in the church, in ministries and in business.
Leadership is often very humbling, and leadership is most dangerous when it ceases to be so (Eric Geiger). It keeps you humble because it is challenging. The business of life around us obscures the vision articulated by the leader. Plans seldom work out the way they were planned. The daily burden of looking after others is a heavy one.
Leadership is most dangerous if it doesn’t humble you anymore. This happens when the leader achieves success. If a leader moves up the ranks, if God makes him successful and if things go better than planned, the leader can easily become proud. Pride always comes before a fall.
David, Israel’s second king, humbly walked with the Lord. He led with a pure heart and capable hands and God made him successful. But David became proud and his heart betrayed him. When David asked about the beautiful woman who he saw on his palace roof and who he desired, he found out that she was married. Despite this, he still sent for her. David was king and a king could have anything he wanted (2 Samuel 11). Earlier in his life he humbly asked God to protect him under the shadow of His wing. He was thankful when God gave him a cave to live in (Psalm 57). But on the roof of his palace he trusted himself instead of God. When David was weak before God, he was actually strong. But when he felt strong, he was really weak. His pride lead to his fall.
We all struggle with pride, but it plagues leaders especially. Leaders have the authority to make decisions; they can influence others. CS Lewis calls pride the “big sin”. It is a sin that we quickly recognise in others, but seldom see in ourselves. We have seen the destructive power of pride in a leader. Once the leader ceases to work with humility, he makes foolish decisions, pushes his people away and stands opposite God.
How can leaders realise that they have drifted from being humble to being proud?
Look for a sense of entitlement. It always grows as pride increases. It is impossible to be humble and feel entitled to certain things at the same time. The moment we think we are owed something, it means we have forgotten that all good things come from God. Leaders, especially if they are successful, tend to think they are entitled to certain things. David possibly felt that he was entitled to a palace and a married woman, because he served and led Israel with distinction. He triumphed over his enemies and restored the nation’s pride. David forgot that all his successes and all the blessings he enjoyed were gifts of mercy from God.
David’s belief that he could have Bathsheba show that at that moment he wasn’t filled with thankfulness for everything God had given him. God was the one who raised David from shepherd boy to king, who took him from sleeping in the veld to sleeping in caves to living in a palace. But this wasn’t enough for David when he sent his servants to fetch Bathsheba. Humble leaders realise that the only things we are entitled to are death and destruction because of our sins. But God, in His mercy, gave Himself to us and promised us eternal life. He gives us opportunities, also opportunities to serve others. Everything we have is ours because of His mercy. Paul reminds us of this: For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Corinthians 4:7). Humble leaders regularly remind themselves of the truth.
You can’t encourage people if you look down on them
Feeling superior can take many forms. All of them are used to look down on others. You can’t encourage people if you look down on them. You can manipulate them, yes, but you can’t encourage them. There are a few mindsets that cause leaders to believe they are superior:
I am more dedicated.
I have more experience.
I work harder.
I am more reliable.
I have more responsibilities.
I handle more problems than what I cause.
I help more than ask for help.
I have better training.
I am more successful.
I make more money.
I have more friends.
I have more talent.
In order to feel superior, you have to make certain comparisons. You will always find someone weaker that you can use to “prove” your own self-importance.
A life of continuous growth and learning reflects humility. Here are four questions that you can ask yourself:
What new behaviour will you try out this week? If the answer is nothing, do you think you have “arrived”? This is when you feel you are doing everything right.
How much effort do you put in? It is great to expect a lot from others, but what about yourself?
When was the last time that someone else was right?
When last did you say: “I was wrong”?
Here are three tips:
Compare yourself to your own potential and not to someone else.
Use your “greatness” to make a big thing of others.
Serve, don’t expect to be served.
Questions that leaders should answer if they want to attract the best talent
One of the considerations for people with many talents when they decide where to work, is the impact of today’s work on tomorrow’s opportunities. They are future-oriented – more than people with “normal” talent. Top talent sees each role that they play as an opportunity to prepare for a better future. This is why they ask different questions:
If I accept work/a job:
How will I grow?
How will I be challenged?
Which opportunities will I have?
How will it make me more employable in the future?
These questions and other similar questions require of organisations to be more strategic in their approach to people development. It is generally accepted that every person is responsible for his or her own personal development, but top talent will want to know how the organisation will help them grow. This help can take on many forms: training within the organisation, payment for classes or training, mentors, etc. It will differ from person to person. What is expected of leaders, is dedication to allow your most talented people to become the architects of their own futures.