Leadership and Humility

My recent post on Al Gray, the finest leader I ever met, focused my attention on the importance of humility in leadership. As I have reported here before, the essence of leadership is uplifting the subordinates to be the best they can be. That means urging them, encouraging them, giving them the tools and training they need, and rewarding them. The leader must direct public attention and recognition not on himself but on his followers. That means he must be humble.

John Ruskin put it well: “I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own powers. But really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not in them, but through them. And they see something divine in every other man and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.”

And Thomas Merton was succinct and precise: “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”

General Al Gray, who ended up as Commandant of the Maine Corps, is famously humble. He always gives credit not to himself but to his followers who have achieved amazing results.

 So if you want to triumph, be humble and lead. Give all the credit to your subordinates. They’ll respect you, follow you, and accomplish results even they didn’t know were possible. And over time, the world will respect you for being their activator.

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