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Leading With Humility

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“The X-Factor of Great Leadership is not Personality it’s Humility” – Jim Collins

There’s something admirable and intriguing about humble successful leaders.  They tend to downplay their achievements and are comfortable avoiding the spotlight while letting others shine. The most successful humble leaders are all about serving others.

We live in a society of fierce competition where measuring ourselves among ourselves has become our national past time. It seems that outdoing someone else makes us feel better about ourselves. Personally, I think that always having to look over your shoulder to see if someone’s gaining on you is a terrible way to live.

In a conversation with a business owner, I was asked: “how do I get people to do what needs to be done promptly?” I touched on the importance of humility in the life of a leader, and how most people respond positively to humble capable leaders. The owner balked at such an idea and stated in a tone of arrogance “that’s ridiculous, your people will never respect you.”

My friend found it difficult to believe that any leader could be successful and humble at the same time, “who would follow them?”  I’m thinking Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr. Nelson Mandela, and Billy Graham to name a few seemed to have done quite well in their cause.

Humility: It’s Not Business as Usual
When I think of humble people in business, I believe Warren Buffett leads the field and has for many years. I still like to read or listen to anything he has to say. If anything, Buffett proves that humility works on Wall Street as well as it does on Main street.

Warren Buffett is both humble and wise, his net worth is more than 80 billion dollars (at the time of this writing), and he lives a surprisingly simple lifestyle. He knows who he is and has no need to outdo anyone to feel better about himself, Buffett was humble before he was wealthy – monetarily speaking.

Buffett though wealthy is not wasteful, he’s been thrifty since childhood, and reportedly lives in the same house he purchased in 1958 located in Omaha, Nebraska. When reading about his life, I’m impressed with his simplistic approach to life and business.

Buffett appears personable and easy going during interviews, he tells stories and uses simple analogies to make his point, he’s humble and soft-spoken, at 87 he’s still at the top of his game.
I made a list of 12 habits successful, humble leaders have, I’m sure there’s more, but this simple list keeps me busy I hope it helps you.

  • Never compare yourself to others – Be comfortable with who you are
  • Manage your emotions in success and failure – model stability
  • Be the first to admit you’re wrong, learn from mistakes and pass it on
  • Encourage and empower others to increase their leadership abilities
  • Hold yourself to a higher standard than others
  • Take responsibility for failures – give others credit for the wins
  • Celebrate the positive qualities of those around you
  • Compliment others freely without thought of reciprocation
  • Allow others to solve problems and celebrate them when they do
  • Be a student of life, lessons abound daily
  • Be the first to help when needed and never above asking for help
  • Defer to others whenever possible – they’ll remember it

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***

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