The Key Element of Leadership

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I have called this meeting to share something important with you. I made a mistake as a leader, and I want to apologize. I humbly ask that you would forgive me for not focusing on what’s most important in this organization. I want to be better, and ask that you would help me become a better leader for this team.” Have you ever sat through a meeting like this? How would you feel if you were an employee of a company whose leadership responded to mistakes like this? 

We have a major problem in today’s society. I have noticed that people in leadership view humility as weakness. This thinking is absolutely wrong. Humility is a source of strength and one of the most important elements in leadership. If you do a quick Google search for quotes on humility, you will find many great men express the need and importance of humility. One of my favorites is from Thomas Merton, “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” When leadership allows for their humanity to show through, those who follow will have more respect in their leadership abilities. Humility is a characteristic that shows strength and a willingness to become better.

John Dalberg-Action said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This has been proven time and time again throughout history. The purpose of this quote is to express that people who hold power over things or others ultimately become corrupt. However, there is a way to withstand corruption, and the answer lies in humility. Humility is what separates successful leaders from failing ones. When we choose to not hold ourselves accountable for our actions and choices, we have made the decision that we are infallible and eventually lie to ourselves to make excuses for our actions. Humility is the key element to strong, honest leadership. 

Humility is not just owning our mistakes and failures. It is also about how we see and treat others. One of my favorite authors and speakers on the subject of leadership, Simon Sinek, once stated, “Humility, I have learned, must never be confused with meekness. Humility is being open to the ideas of others.” When we welcome the ideas and perspectives of others, and openly accept them, we are showing those around us that they matter. Leadership should never be about being the smartest person in the room. In fact, strong leadership gives credit and admiration where it is due. Leadership is not about being in the limelight, but rather putting others in the limelight who deserve to be there.

A large piece in the foundation of leadership is admitting to faults, mistakes, and errors. Humility is what allows others to trust and believe those in leadership. Treating others with respect, and valuing their opinions and perspective, promotes community and builds a lasting organization. Humility is not a weakness, and it is not something that should be feared. Humility is a characteristic that should be a staple in all leaders.

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