Humility in Leadership
Our brands, companies, and organizations can’t get to a place of humility without proper leadership. The right leader has to be invested in their own spiritual life, especially in the discipline of humility. From there, humility then flows to the people around the leader. In turn, their colleagues and team members channel that humility to the clients the brand serves. This is the journey of the LDRBRND.
Let’s start at the beginning.
What is Humility?
A quote by C.S. Lewis comes to mind here:
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.”
Notice that it doesn’t say thinking of ourselves as worthless. Things, like having low self-worth or self-esteem, putting ourselves down, denigrating or degrading ourselves, disrespecting ourselves, letting ourselves be a doormat, and opening ourselves up to abuse are all examples of humility taken to an extreme and dangerous level. Those behaviors are not what I am talking about at all here.
Rather, humility is having the proper perspective. It’s a dynamic tension between the idea that we have immeasurable worth and value while recognizing we are mere specks of dust in an infinite universe. That attitude is a healthy sense of humility. LDRBRNDs know this, understand it, and live it out. It keeps us from becoming conceited, arrogant, and self-centered. We can’t possibly serve our teams and customers from that place.
Remember, Self-worth is incredibly important.
However, the counterweight to that is humility. Humility is universal. It’s for everyone and doesn’t denigrate, segregate, or separate. Humility is shown to everyone. It recognizes that we are human beings worthy of respect and dignity. Humility treats people well regardless of position or status.
What’s the sign of true humility? Easy: it’s serving someone who can’t ever possibly pay us back for our service.
That is the mark of the authentic LDRBRND too. We strive to be humble in serving others while remaining grounded.
And we live out the idea that all people are to be loved. Period.
Where does humility come from?
Humility comes from the heart. It starts with trust in something bigger than us — God in my case — and the understanding that we are not the center of the universe. It’s a decision to live with a wider view on life. It’s a choice to have a larger framework around what is important.
Humility has an appropriate view of self and others.
Spiritual leadership is what I am advocating here. Humility is an essential component of our spiritual lives. It doesn’t have to be restricted to just that portion of our lives though. We need to stop compartmentalizing. After all, humility is an effective tool for us as LDRBRNDs. It emanates from our spiritual sides and reaches deeply into our professional endeavors.
Paradoxically, humility both comes from and produces wisdom. From a Christian perspective, the Bible reiterates this, specifically in James 3:13 and Proverbs 11:2.
I envision this paradox as a double arrow between these two concepts (the double arrow coming from my days of high school math). If we increase one, it will increase the other. There is a deep correlation between humility and wisdom.
What are the benefits of humility?
With humility comes the ability to better understand other people. This is a huge concept. Trust me when I say that being able to do this will have a profound impact on more than just our careers.
For example, with humility we are better able to empathize with people which improves all sorts of relationships such as:
- and so on.
Through humility, we’re able to better understand the individual situations and needs of others. We make better judgment calls. That’s right: a LDRBRND will be required to make judgment calls, though some of those will have ramifications. However, a judgment call should never be made hastily or without humility. It’s necessary to always know all of the integral facts before making a decision. Otherwise, this will lead to more errors.
With humility, we become more exposed to lots of different situations, people, and perspectives. I have felt that this has been a major strength for me and a source of success.
My journey to now has been circuitous, to say the least.
First, I worked in a mom and pop bakery. Next, I served in the Air Force. Then, I went to college. After that, I worked for Panera, UPS, and then as a janitor in a gym. Later, I worked in a paint store before finally deciding to start my business.
In that journey, I got to meet people from all over. Each of them had unique ways of thinking. That opened my mind as well as my world. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was building my greatest strength – being able to love and understand people.
That strength could have been a great weakness without humility.
So I encourage us all as LDRBRNDs to develop a heart of understanding. Let’s act wisely. If we are humble, we are therefore willing to learn. We’re able to accept correction and discipline. That’s a hard thing for all of us – myself included. Once we become adults, we think we don’t need that anymore.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I had to learn this for myself. Once, I had a mentor tell me that I was “unteachable.” It was harsh, but true. I was stuck in my way and couldn’t accept new teaching or correction in my erroneous thinking.
However, the key was that I didn’t stay there. Once my mentor identified that blind spot, I took action by humbling myself and adopting the mindset of a forever student.
We don’t know it all.
As LDRBRNDs, we need to perpetually remind ourselves of this great truth. Not to beat ourselves up, but to remain grounded. As we find ourselves elevated to positions of greater authority and success, it will be a challenge to remain humble. However, arrogance will lead us astray. The consequences will be severe not only for us but for the people all around us.
Leaders take this responsibility and privilege seriously.
Now we don’t have to be students in a formal educational setting. Rather, think of all the learning that takes place outside the classroom. Books, audiobooks, podcasts, articles, journals, and trade magazines are a few of the informal ways to educate ourselves. Whether we’re at home, in the car, at the gym, or running errands, we can always be learning.
Did you know that most CEOs read about 60 books a year? The number isn’t something to get stuck on. Instead, start where you are today. If it takes you two months to read a book, so be it. Small steps taken consistently will lead us into a greater posture of humility.
A student, always
As a humble, everyday student we will see constant growth in all areas of our lives. This results in a growing LDRBRND. Also, it’s worth noting that if we aren’t intentionally growing, we are instead stagnating.
Sometimes these life lessons come from unexpected places. My kids are a constant source of learning. They are a mirror of the things I most need to work on. The things that frustrate me the most about them are the things that I need to work on as well. I am talking to myself as much as to my kids when I repeat our favorite mantra around the house:
“Kindness, respect, and self-control!”
Even if our team members are not mirrors, we can still find ways to learn from them. We have authority and responsibility for our teams, but we cannot succeed alone. We draw upon their unique perspectives and experiences too. They have insights that are valuable, powerful and stem from a background that we will never fully understand.
Humility helps us understand that there is more than one way to look at things. There’s always more than one way to solve a complex problem. And as a bonus, the very act of actively seeking out those various points of view will endear us to our teams. Everyone appreciates when we acknowledge them for their contribution as an essential part of the team.
That is a huge benefit for the LDRBRND. High levels of morale fuel brands that change the world. This phenomenon is accentuated in this era of a highly disengaged workforce, which cost employers billions of dollars in productivity.
So, a highly engaged crew starts with the LDRBRNDs’ humility.
Let’s also look at humility and how it affects our ability to be more moral/ethical leaders. This is something sorely lacking in our current business environment. We see how that turns out in cases like Uber where the modus operandi was basically “win at all costs”. That is a dangerous line of thinking and led to all sorts of unethical behavior, most notably in the treatment of women.
That is not a LDRBRND. Rather, LDRBRNDs are steeped in humility and a paradigm reversal:
Serve at all costs
With humility, we have greater wisdom and the ability to discern right from wrong. We are rooted in love for people and we can’t condone mistreatment of anyone. We see the ultimate value in every life. Our humility gives us strength. Again, this may seem paradoxical, like how vulnerability gives us strength.
Our humility fuels our humanity and helps us to resist evil.
Humility also creates a virtuous circle. Humility begets more humility and likewise more wisdom. It creates examples of light and love to emulate, rippling outward for others to feel and then extend further. It comes back to us in unexpected ways. Whether you call this The Golden Rule or something else, know this: there is power in humility. It attracts people who can help us when we need it most.
But we have to be willing to ask. The LDRBRND is not ashamed to ask for help when we don’t know what to do next.
What are the consequences of arrogance?
I wrote about this a little bit above, but let’s dive deeper here. So what does arrogance look like? Well, it includes such attitudes as:
- looking down on others or treating them as inferior,
- pride taken to an extreme length,
- and thinking we are better than everyone/everything.
Drawing on a Biblical background, we can see some of the disastrous consequences of arrogance:
- destruction from Proverbs 18:12;
- shame/disgrace/humiliation such as in Proverbs 11:2 and 29:23;
- conflict as in Proverbs 13:10;
- the inability to listen to reason/to learn wisdom;
- and finally having to learn hard lessons repeatedly.
We have to make a distinction between being proud and having pride/being arrogant.
We can be proud of a job well done. But it’s easy to become full of pride. After all, we are all mortal. LDRBRNDs are even more susceptible to this. We have the ability, accomplishment, success, and praise from others. The moment we focus on the praise of others and start chasing it just to feed our egos is the moment we start to slide into arrogance.
Then, we start believing that we are so good at something that we don’t need anybody else’s help. We believe we’re the best in the world and can never get any better. Our inflated sense of self sets us up for certain disaster and a mighty fall. With arrogance, we will fall off the top of the mountain and slide down into the valley at a blistering speed. That is a humbling experience in and of itself.
Personally, even though I don’t say that I was ever at the top of any game, I have had humbling experiences like this. Previously, I chose not to be teachable. Instead, I chose to be proud of my abilities, wisdom, learning, and experience. Those are painful experiences that I don’t wish for any person.
My hope is for other LDRBRNDs to learn this principle without having to go through it personally.
Humility wins because it aligns with God’s economy.
God will ultimately bring favor to and lift people up who have humility and a correct view of themselves and God. The people who lift themselves higher than everything, including God, will likely face some tough situations. This doesn’t mean the arrogant can’t succeed. They may even have some financial success.
But at what cost?
After all, what is financial success without:
- peace of mind,
- joy in the heart,
- a family to share with,
- true friendship,
- and a much higher purpose.
We were made for more than just this physical existence.
Financial success does not necessarily extend to success in other areas of life if we remain arrogant. Spiritual success is way more important than any other success.
What does humility look like in real life?
It comes down to one word: submission
This word may hold some negative connotations for people, but I want to change that.
First, I want you to understand that there’s a right way and a wrong way to submit. Submission is an act of service and love. It requires sacrifice and humility while at the same time is an act of vulnerability and power.
Submission puts your desires on the back burner while helping someone else achieve their desires first. There’s a sense of mutual benefit in it. But it isn’t tit for tat. It doesn’t keep a scoreboard.
That’s a hard concept in today’s world.
We live in an era that values self-aggrandizement and trampling others as we scrape and claw our way to the top.
There is another way. There’s a way that values people, put them first, loves them, and serves them. It lives in abundance, gratitude, and servanthood.
I’ve learned a ton about submission and humility in my relationships (and especially with my wife and kids). For those who don’t know, my family exists in a role unlike most households. My wife works outside the house while I spend most of the time taking care of the kids. This is the opposite of what most people think of when it comes to a traditional family where dad works outside the home and mom stays with the kids.
In fact, we are seeing more and more dads be the stay at home parent.
This situation works for us. Now, I’m not chastising anyone, their family life, or the decisions they’ve made. Rather, before we made this decision, we discussed and prayed about it a lot. I wanted to support my wife and her career dreams. But, I also knew we needed a parent at home for our kids. After all, our foster care adopted triplets have more needs than other kids their age.
In that situation, I made the decision to submit. It was an intentional act to serve my family’s needs first. I had to work against my ego and pride about what “family” looks like. Through that process, I learned important lessons about humility that I can then pass on to others. I’m not saying I’m perfect in my submission, but it does give me practice to submit to the highest authority in my life — God.
Submission to God
I can’t physically see God but I can feel His presence and His promptings. These are little moments — quiet moments — when something inside says “trust Him” during difficult times and hard choices. Some paths don’t seem like they make sense in those moments of submission. It’s in those moments that faith takes place and grows.
He’s the Creator, the one who made the universe, the one who keeps it working, the one who sees all the intricate connections that I cannot possibly fathom in my mortality. So maybe, just maybe, He has something much bigger in mind than I can imagine. A greater outcome than we could have ever anticipated. But first we need to learn hard lessons like submission, obedience, faith, patience, and humility to be ready for the responsibility of being a LDRBRND.
When I have a proper perspective of God – who He is and who I am by comparison – it keeps me grounded and humble. I recognize God as the authority of my life. In my submission to His infinitely better plan for my life, I don’t live in worry about external praise, validation, and recognition. I have peace and purpose through submission to something higher than myself. That is the LDRBRND way.
Let’s move away from the vertical relationship for a moment to address submission when it comes to horizontal relationships.
I’ll start by saying this:
In this day and age, we put a premium on youthfulness, innovation, and creativity. But what good is that youthfulness, innovation, and creativity without boundaries or guidelines?
This is why there are so many ethical lapses and moral dilemmas in business today. There isn’t a submission to those who are older, wiser, more mature, and more experienced. Elders understand why guardrails exist. They’ve seen or experienced pain firsthand and want to help others avoid a similar fate.
Of course, being older doesn’t automatically make a person wiser, but dismissing a person’s point of view because of their age is foolish.
However, don’t get cocky if you are on the older end of the spectrum. Submission and humility go in both directions. There are times when it is right to submit to a younger person and their ideas. Youth provides a different and valuable perspective.
An epic example of humility
There is no better example of humility in the Bible than Christ Himself. So Jesus, in ultimate submission and humility, submitted to the will of God the Father. He came down out of heaven, to be born here on Earth and live a blameless, sinless, perfect life.
And then He died on the cross for our sins.
But the story doesn’t end there. Three days later, He rose again. Through this act, He showed the ultimate humility. And during that time, He was able to do the most epic and momentous thing in all of human history: redeeming us for our sins.
So, with humility comes the ability to do remarkable things
Romans 12:16 presents something interesting: a command to live in harmony with each other and to not be so proud as to miss out on enjoying the company of others. There’s a tendency once we reach a certain level of success to look down on people with disdain.
Humility doesn’t do that. Humility says, “I can spend time with people who don’t have as much as me, who are less fortunate than me, and who have something that I can learn from. I can help them and they can help me too!”
That’s something to think about.
“If you’re thinking you are too important to help someone else, you’re only fooling yourself. You’re not that important!” — Galatians 6:3
Man, that’s a gut check right there. If you think you’re better than someone else, it’s only a matter of time before you’re in for a rude awakening. Besides, Jesus gave us an example in John 13 when He lowered himself to the position of the lowest servant and washed His disciples feet. A little while later, He died a humiliating death on the cross, a punishment often reserved for the worst of the worst.
He did all of this to show His great love for us, centuries before any of us were born.
Humility conquers the cancer of arrogance. Arrogance is extremely contagious. Arrogance causes people, brands, companies, organizations and even nations to fall.
Historical and modern examples of humility
Here are a couple of Biblical, historical, and well-known examples of humble individuals:
- King David, a man after God’s own heart;
- Abraham Lincoln;
- Mother Teresa;
- Martin Luther King, Jr;
- and Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-Fil-A.
Now, for a personal example
I have one son who is the very antithesis of humility. He thinks he knows everything and he’s unwilling to be humble, which is why he has a hard time learning his lessons. Humility helps us learn our lessons quickly, but arrogance, hard-heartedness and pride make it a challenge. We usually end up learning lessons the hard way and over a longer period of time. That’s what makes me sad as a parent: when I see my kids not accepting correction, discipline, or learning life lessons.
I think God feels the same way about me sometimes when I don’t learn my lessons and continue to do the same thing over and over again. Even though I know better, I still slip back into my sinful habits. Therefore, in order to learn the lesson there has to be a consequence involved.
So I’m getting to see that firsthand as a father, but I also realized that with God as my Heavenly Father He looks at me the same way.
The characteristics that go with humility
There are several characteristics that always go along with humility. First, always be humble and gentle. Next, always be patient with each other, making allowances for each other’s faults because of your love. Humility is a Christian characteristic, but it’s also a characteristic of a leader.
Humility impacts more than us. It is passed down to the generations and leaves a legacy.
Throughout our lives, we can have humility, we can lose humility, and we can gain humility. In many ways, we’ll always pass some of our humility (or lack of it) to future generations.
I have a responsibility to teach humility to my family.
My responsibility to show and learn humility, and then pass it on to my kids will (hopefully) eventually make its way to my grandchildren and their grandkids. Beyond that, my spiritual legacy of humility will hopefully have an impact on the fellow business leaders around me, other Christians, other people in my local community and even my local neighborhood.
It’s incredibly important to remember that humility leaves a legacy.
It’s intangible. For sure, it’s not easy to quantify. It’s not like leaving behind assets like money or stocks or real estate. It is, however, far more important than any of those. So as leaders, we need to be thinking about humility, not only in our own lives but the legacies that we leave behind and the generations we’ll influence with our humility.
In the book of Luke, Jesus talks about people being exalted for their humility. In 14:10, He instructs us to take the lowest place possible at the table so that others show us honor and lift us up. Later, in 22:26, Jesus taught us that the greatest among us will take the lowest rank and that leaders should take on the role of servants.
In other words, humility and servant leadership go hand in hand. Some will argue that leadership is service, which I somewhat agree with, but it’s also important to remain humble despite your act of service. You have to be a different kind of servant leader.
You need to Think Like a servant
Humility fits into a larger framework , as Paul talked about in Colossians 3:12. There, he taught us that we must be clothed with tenderheartedness, mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. This ties into the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5. Servant Based Leadership goes hand in hand in marketing your business as well. See what these leaders had to say about it in our previous blog.
When is humility essential?
In a word: every day. Leaders have to be the ones that set the expectation of humility in work and play. Without proper leadership that is humble, we can’t pass along humility to those around us. Again, this goes back to this generational idea in which humility begets humility with our legacy.
Arrogance as a sign of weakness
The Bible reminds us in James 4:16 that boasting about our plans is evil. In general, boasting is a turn-off. Rather, it’s better to let others sing your praises and give you compliments. Just don’t let their kind words go to your head and make you proud, arrogant, or boastful. In this world, people naturally want to brag about their accomplishments, strengths, and positive characteristics.
Honestly, boasting is almost encouraged because people want to stand out from the crowd.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be seen as different. The difference is that Christian values determine our motive. Our depth of character determines how hard or easy it is for us to state the facts about our accomplishments rather than turn it into boasting. In other words, are you trying to make yourself appear more important than you are? Those that lack spiritual depth would lean this way.
Boasting is just a sign of spiritual weakness and vulnerability. It’s a sign of somebody who does not have true deep self-esteem. Potentially, one who boasts is hurting someone else who is scared to show their weaknesses. It’s something to be careful of and watch for. Plus, throughout the Bible, many different verses talk about the consequences as a result of boasting.
Where can we practice humility?
1st Chronicles 29:14 says, “But who am I and who are my people, that we could give anything to you everything we have has come from you. And we give you only what you first gave us!”
This speaks to me a lot and reminds me of the spiritual discipline of tithing. Tithing gives back a portion of our money to God. Many years ago, my wife and I decided that we would honor and obey this concept. Our hope is to be His faithful stewards, setting aside a portion of what He blesses us with to give back to various ministries, our church, and serving others. It’s also the fundamental basis of the business I’m creating as a portion of these proceeds support foster care and adoption ministries.
So humility leads to faithfulness and stewardship. When we have humility, we recognize that with all our resources, we’re simply acting as stewards — managers — over the resources God has entrusted to us. When we have that perspective on life, humility comes with it. We give more, are better leaders, better managers, and subsequently better stewards.
Humility is appropriate all the time.
Even when we’re in positions of authority, humility creates restraint, caution, prudence, and good judgment.
Leaders of all types can lead with humility, from CEOs to project leads to the “go-to” people in your organization. Humility is crucial when delegating and assigning people to the right roles. You need wisdom to do that properly, so with humility you have opportunities to practice everywhere you go.
That’s corporate business in a nutshell, but also our spiritual life too. In our churches, houses, places of worship, families, and communities, humility can and should be practiced everywhere.
Why is humility important to leadership?
2nd Chronicles 32:26 says, “Then Hezekiah humbled himself or repented of his pride as did the people of Jerusalem. So the Lord’s anger did not fall on them during his lifetime.” So as we can see yet again from the Bible, humility began with the leader. When he had humility, he averted destructive consequences not only for himself but for his people too.
That’s huge. It has a real impact on many lives.
If you don’t have humility, you won’t be able to accept other people’s points of views, perspectives, or their ideas. In some cases, you’ll simply bristle them off and reject their feedback. You may even get angry about it.
Why? Maybe it’s because you think it makes you look bad that it wasn’t your idea. However, humility will accept that others have value. This is probably a good place to talk about diversity and inclusion, both of which are hot topics in leadership right now.
When you have a different background or experience, you approach things from a different perspective. Often, you can come up with unique and more workable solutions that others haven’t thought of before. However, if a leader is prideful or arrogant, you won’t hear their unique perspective.
But with humility, you’ll figure out how to incorporate those ideas into your company’s workflow. This creates a better working environment, fostering teamwork and demonstrating the skills of a better leader. It creates more positivity in those who follow you, encouraging them to do a better job!
Humility is going to be a foundational part of any successful organization — or leader that’s worth their salt. An effective leader will be humble and subsequently leave an impact on the world. It will help you create legacy, meaning, and significance. A lot of leaders understand this and have embraced it.
Others still don’t get it, and no matter what they hear, they simply don’t understand this important concept:
Humility is essential to leadership.
The importance of humility in a leader’s life cannot be overstated.
So, how does it affect our marketing?
I believe God has called me to be a spiritual leader as a marketer through LDRBRND. Remember, leadership is your marketing. If that’s grounded in spiritually strong Christian morality and ethics, then you will be the type of leader that people will look to and seek out. In a sense, that’s your marketing: your morality, ethical behavior, and values — all driven by your humility. It helps you become a better version of yourself. Naturally, people are then drawn to that, saving you the hassle of traditional marketing techniques.
Remember Philippians 2:3. “Don’t be selfish or try to impress others. Rather, be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”
Support others. Encourage them so they, in turn, support others too. Via social media channels, all of us can help connect others with new faces as long as we’re humble. When we see someone who is great at something, we find others who can benefit from their skillsets.
Having a heart of humility
In practical terms, do you know what this means? It’s all about serving others. It’s about recognizing our interconnected nature. When you’re humble, you see others, you see what’s going on in their lives including their joys and pain, and then you are able to help them out. So, encourage them and support them. Most importantly, love them.
Humility is the basis for everything.
From a marketing perspective, when we have good leadership that is rooted in our spiritual side, we uphold certain values and beliefs. Those things are rock solid to our spiritual foundation.
Some of those concepts include bedrock items like humility that attracts communities of people. A huge part of marketing these days is this idea of community and belonging. Throughout that, humility brings people together. It attracts people who want to be connected through humility. Because arrogance is going to just drive good people away, they’re not going to want to have anything to do with it.
Once you have that community, however, humility helps you to serve them. It helps you to be a better servant, a better company, and a better brand. You’ll try to seek out what the community members need the most. You bring them value in the form of whatever content, solutions or products you have. So, humility is going to be the basis of serving customers, clients, and people in the community.
When we have humility, it perpetuates itself within the community.
As that humility perpetuates itself, the community continues to grow larger and larger. As more and more people want to be part of it, more people will spread the word about it. This is the basis of that highly desired, word of mouth marketing brands crave.
So humility; service community marketing: these are all things that go hand in hand in my mind. And if we can get to that point where we have communities that are growing and growing, there’s going to be some administrative stuff that’s going to have to change and grow along with that. However, it needs to be approached with a sense of humility, service, love and empathy — all mixed with trying to do what’s best for the clients instead of ourselves.
And on occasion, sometimes we’ll have to say, “I can’t offer the solution. But someone else can.” When we can say that in humility, sending people to others (including our competition), it’s going to reinforce our perception to others as a humble LDRBRND.
Humility affects the way we do our jobs, our business, our marketing, and how we serve our customers. And if we’re looking out for our customers, even if we don’t have the right solution, I gotta believe that humility and the ability to speak openly, honestly, transparently and vulnerably will reflect positively on our brand. In that situation, humility builds trust, affection, honor, and love for our brands.
Humility as a daily practice
Humility serves clients over our own brand. It serves clients’ needs over brand needs. And in defense of humility – an idea that is very counter-cultural — humility helps us stand out from the noise. While everyone else is yelling about how awesome they are, we are quietly serving people’s deepest needs. That attracts more of the right people and it makes them “stickier”. They want to stay connected to your brand because you have created a deep and beautiful emotional bond. That type of attachment is not easily broken or swayed by a cheaper product or service.
Instead it’s reinforced through humility.