I’m a leadership development consultant. I’ve spent many years working in the British military, the public sector and the private sector, helping to improve leadership – both individual and corporate. In this time I have consistently come across three leadership qualities which, when present, always make a difference.
I’m not professing that these are the definitive leadership qualities – others will be able to define their own and argue their virtue. However, put these to the test and tell me if they don’t work in your leadership situation.
In my 3 part ‘Leadership Qualities’ series I will define the 3 Leadership Qualities that I live by and why you need to live by them too.
No 1 Humility
The best leadership quote that I like is Lao Tzu, 6th Century BC philosopher who said: “A leader is best where the people say ‘we did it ourselves.’”
Just think about that – how would your work place be transformed if your people could adamantly believe that their efforts were what made the difference and delivered the results. What tremendous empowerment this would generate, unleashing potential and elevating engagement to new heights.
I believe that to do this the leader has to have impeccable humility – considering that others may actually be able to achieve what she wants to achieve. The problem with this I find is that ego sometimes gets in the way.
We have some need to be acknowledged and given credit; to have our status and identity recognised. I’ve found a clip I think you’ll enjoy about how not to have humility (in my view):
I’ve served on an aircraft carrier (actually a RN CVS) and it’s easy to understand the need to be confident in the face of adversity, whilst supported by significant professional might. Senior professionals have often been trained if not drilled to ‘be right’. However, for me, leaders are the ones who can hold that space but still consider the other view.
It’s the Truth
So is humility the anti-thesis to arrogance? We need our leaders to be confident and I work with individuals to achieve this; although I would venture that confidence gone too far becomes arrogance and this quickly erodes trust.
I wonder, therefore, if humility is about being truthful – to who we are and to the situation. Richard Foster in his book ‘Prayer’ states: “Put in simple terms, humility means to live as close to the truth as possible: the truth about ourselves, the truth about others, the truth about the world in which we live…
The word itself comes from the Latin humus, which means fertile ground…In one sense humility is nothing more than staying close to the earth.”
So my top leadership quality is humility; being true to the situation and true about ourselves.