The drive of humility

How many leaders have you known that are truly humble? Humility for a leader means openness and transparency and sometimes that is a difficult balancing act to manage. What can a leader share without appearing weak and what can they share that doesn’t come across as prideful?

If people can see the weaknesses in a leader they can begin seeing an authentic person, a person just like everyone else. A follower needs to know that the leader is not a perfect person and at the same time the follower needs to believe that the leader has integrity and character.

Listen to the words of Gandhi, “I own, however, that I have humility enough in me to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.”

Jim Collins the author of “Good to Great” speaks of humility in his monograph on the social sectors and says, “Humility is an absolute obsessive, burning ambition – for the cause, for the company, for the work, for the third-grade kids – combined with a ferocious will to make good on the cause; these kids read, it’s not about me, it’s about kids. It is that combination of humility, defined as burning ambition, transferred into the cause, with the brutal, stoic will that marks the 5.” Now that isn’t the image of humility most people associate humility with.

Who has a burning unquenchable desire to work for the cause with such focus and attention that people realize that the goal is bigger than the person working towards the goal? A person with great humility is the answer. If that person is immersed in the goal and they leave their ego out of the equation that is humility. It is also humility that acts to quench the thirst for recognition even though that type of determination and grit will often be recognized.   A passion for the mission that is larger than the ego – humility.

2 responses to “The drive of humility

  1. I do leaders like Donald Trump and Bill Clinton fit into your definition. I can easily give you dozens of others considered great leaders who were the least humble people you’d ever meet. How about Alexander the great?

  2. Don’t think Donald Trump fits into the “great leader” category (Think about it: even a bad leader would find it challenging to manage a casino into bankruptcy ). Trump is great at selling Trump, not leading people. That said, I understand your point. For another take on humility and leadership, check out a recent post on my blog, “Can a Narcissist be Humble?” at

    First time checking into this blog. I’ll be back!


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