As regular readers of my blog know, I’m a devoted advocate of leadership as opposed to management. Leading is positive. It requires the lifting up of followers and helping them to be the best they can be. Management is negative. It means keeping people in control, assuring that they don’t do something the manager doesn’t want.
That understanding of leadership shows that a leader is humble. He’s not trying to get ahead. He’s trying to enable his followers.
The finest leader I ever encountered was a Marine named Al Gray. I knew him from time he was a captain of combat troops in Vietnam through his time as Commandant of the Marine Corps to his position today as a retired wiseman. We reconnect every April 29, the anniversary of the 1975 fall of Saigon, when he, as a colonel and commander of the Marine evacuation force aboard the U.S. 7th Fleet, rescued me under fire as Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese. It is partly out of respect for General Gray that I always capitalize “Marine.”
What I haven’t emphasized in my earlier discussions of leadership is that the leader must incentivize and inspire his followers to achieve the mission of the unit or group. That requires, first and foremost, that the leader himself finds his mission worthy of all his efforts. And he must know how to arouse the desire to fulfill that mission in his followers. That ability requires the communication of not only facts but also passion.
My guess is that the reason we have so few able leaders is that so few people these days are capable of humility. It is a virtue to be treasured.