Humility in Leadership

It strikes me that those things which used to be peripheral can become central: those things which used to be soft can become hard. There used to be words like ‘competition‘, ‘performance‘ and ‘leadership‘, which were testosterone laden and associated with success, and words like ‘kindness‘, ‘fairness‘ and ‘humility‘, which were nice, but not ‘hard‘ like the rest. You could be a nice loser, or a tough winner. But there was no space for humility in a competitive world.

Humility in Leadership

Maybe once, if ever, that was true, but in the Social Age it’s decidedly not so. Social authority, that which is contextual and consensual of our communities, is based upon the actions we take over time, those things that we do to and with others. Our ability to curate a reputation for fairness, for kindness, is important: because it’s a foundation of the trust that others will build in us, and that trust is the foundation of action.

Humility is a willingness to recognise that we don’t have all the answers, and a strength to help others find the answers that they seek: and to do so with no expectation of reciprocity in the moment. It’s to engage without reward, beyond the sense of value that we add into our communities and to others.

Mosaic of Fairness

We need every conversation to be fair, not just the big ones

But this soft action does not give soft power: it’s a foundation of reputation and social authority, that form of authority that is granted by the community to us, on the condition that we use it responsibly.

Humility is not a position of weakness, it’s a foundation of strength. It’s not something nice to layer on top, but rather something to weave into our thought and action. It’s not incidental to great leadership: it’s the foundation of it.


About julianstodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
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