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Humble Leadership

By Carter Hayes | JB Charleston Business Office | Dec. 10, 2015

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. — Many years ago when America was a very young country, a rider on horseback came across soldiers trying unsuccessfully to move a heavy log. 

A corporal stood by watching the men struggle. The rider couldn't believe the corporal was not assisting. 

He finally asked the corporal why he wasn't helping. The corporal replied: "I am the corporal.  I give orders." 

The rider said nothing in response. He dismounted, went to the soldiers and helped lift the heavy log.

With the task finally completed, George Washington, the Commander-in Chief, quietly remounted his horse and said to the corporal, "The next time your men need help, send for the Commander-in-Chief."

Like George Washington, leaders today need to be visionaries, winners and goal-setters. However, there is another trait often overlooked and it is perhaps the most important:  humility. George Washington's humility was one of the primary reasons he led a rag-tag group of cold, starving and barely-clothed soldiers to secure America's independence by defeating the greatest Army in the world. He genuinely cared for his soldiers and their needs and, many times, put their needs above his own. 

Humility doesn't mean being spineless and/or trying to please everyone. It is simply the quality of not thinking you are better than other people. It's such an important leadership trait that articles in the Harvard Business Review and Forbes magazine say, "The best leaders are humble," and "Humility is the secret to confident leadership."

Humility manifests itself in appreciation of others and selflessness. Humble people willingly seek accurate self-knowledge and accept their imperfections while remaining fully aware of their talents and abilities. They appreciate others' positive worth, strengths and contributions and have no need for entitlement or dominance over others.

Why are humble leaders so successful and why do they have employees who are loyal, highly productive and like their jobs?

They welcome new ideas. They are open to others' opinions and listen. Humble leaders know their limitations and know they don't have all the answers. They realize that the right team of diverse people can come up with amazing solutions and ideas because of their different experiences and ways of thinking. Several minds are most always better than one.  
 
Humble leaders recognize others when they are successful. Dale Carnegie states the worst quality demonstrated by leaders is, "Taking credit when things go well and dishing out blame when things go wrong." 

Humble leaders are honest, admit mistakes, take responsibility and provide corrective action. People admire leaders who admit mistakes and take responsibility.  It exemplifies honesty and how to overcome adversity turning negative situations into successes.
 
Humble leaders empower and support their employees. People perform best when they know their supervisor or team leader believes in them.

During election time, when we often hear politicians describe how great they are its good to remember that humility is an important quality in leaders.