The Noble Art of Leading Humbly
by Rick Boxx
Many times I have heard business leaders express their lofty praises for a peer or a key employee. We all like to be valued and appreciated, especially when those we work for or with are the ones that offer words of affirmation. But not long ago I was especially impressed by the comments made by a server at a conference I was conducting.
The server understood I was heading up the event, so he decided to take an opportunity to approach me and offer commendations for one of our guests. This waiter pointed to Denise, a gifted entrepreneur and teacher, who was standing nearby. She had come as a guest of ours. Turning back to me, the server stated, “If Denise is involved with your event, then I am impressed.”
He continued by explaining, “Denise is a class act and a great teacher. Our people love working with her, because she treats them so well.”
Interestingly, Denise is known worldwide for her business acumen, yet she had taken time to demonstrate interest and concern for the hotel servers. Rather than parading her status and demanding deference from them, she had become a servant of the servers.
In his insightful book, Good to Great, Jim Collins reports findings of a study he commissioned about top-performing companies. One of the distinctives he found in each company was that “good to great leaders” exhibited high levels of determination. But there was a second common trait as well – humility. He writes:
“…(these) leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company…their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.”
Later in the book Collins observes, “Those who worked with or wrote about good-to-great leaders continually used words like quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated….” In other words, according to the author, these leaders were “seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.”
This presents a remarkable contrast to the highly publicized, celebrity executives we read about, hear and see in today’s media. The “good to great leaders” Collins’ team studied seemingly understood the pitfall of becoming caught up in one’s own self-importance. In the Bible’s New Testament, it is stated this way: “…Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…” (Romans 12:3).
Jesus Christ, whose life has served as the ultimate example of humility for countless millions around the world, taught in Matthew 23:12, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
The message seems clear: If you are looking for a great leader, look for those who humbly serve others. And if you desire to become a great leader, first learn the art of both serving and leading with humility.
Copyright 2011, Integrity Resource Center, Inc. Adapted with permission from “Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx,” a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. To learn more about Integrity Resource Center or to sign up for Rick’s daily Integrity Moments, visit www.integrityresource.org. His book, How to Prosper in Business Without Sacrificing Integrity,gives a biblical approach for doing business with integrity.