Aim Higher: Servant Leaders are Humble


Leadership and Humility



What one trait of servant leadership is absolutely crucial to the other eight? Humility. It’s because humble leaders understand that their ideas, goals, strengths and concerns aren’t the only ones that go into the mix of a high-performing team. In fact, when leaders aren’t humble – when they’re arrogant or proud – they shut down the traits that make for the strongest teams: creativity, good worth ethic, entrepreneurship, selflessness.

Because a leader who takes all the credit and only thinks of his or herself won’t inspire great performances in others, only the bare minimum.

How do you model humility for your team?



Aim Higher with Humility

On this week’s “Aim Higher” podcast, my panel and I discuss the last of the nine traits of a servant leader: humility. I saved it for last because it really informs the other eight traits. You can’t get to any kind of servant leadership mentality without a foundation of humility.



How do you define humility? Most people I know define it as a kind of negative: humility is not arrogance. OK, so I’m not arrogant, therefore I must be humble? I’m not sure that’s accurate, is it? I mean, the opposite of “weak” is “strong,” but just because I’m “not weak” doesn’t necessarily mean I’m strong. I may not be hostile toward you, but that doesn’t mean I’m actually a kind person.

I prefer to think of humility in a much more active way—not as simply an absence of pride. We know what arrogant leaders do. They take credit for others’ work. They only listen to their own ideas. They reward sycophants over hard-workers and truth-tellers. But if you, as a leader, simply don’t do those bad things, that doesn’t make you a servant leader. You’re just “not a bad leader.”



Instead, ask yourself this: what things can you do to create an environment of pride for your team? Not the negative kind of arrogant pride, but the kind you want to inspire in your team. Pride in a job well done. Pride in being part of a winning team. Pride of accomplishment. Pride of completing a difficult task. Think about times when you felt pride because of something your boss or leadership team did. For me, those include:

  • A leader sharing credit with me publicly
  • A boss acknowledging my unique gifts
  • A leader listening carefully and incorporating my thoughts into their action plans
  • A manager taking my emotional state into account during a time of crisis
  • A CEO who took the time to explain our strategy to me in more detail

All of these things gave me, at the time, more pride—pride in my work, in the company, in the team and even in my boss. And that “good pride” made me more willing to go the extra mile, be more creative, take measured risks and be more authentic at work.

Humility in a servant leader creates opportunities for pride within your team—which, in turn, can help create leaders for tomorrow.

We like to say to our teams, “Take pride in your work.” Well, if they’re going to take it, where does it come from? Hint to all you aspiring servant leaders out there: it comes from you.

I hope you’ll listen to our panel. My guests have some great, actionable ideas on how to make humility a real and potent force in your servant leadership style. Being humble as a person and as a leader will make a remarkable difference.



Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts. (insert link)






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