Knowledge Center


Article -> Humility of Leadership

Date Added: February 2010

Note: This article appeared in the February 21, 2010 issue of The Green Bay Press-Gazette.

A title doesn’t necessarily mean an individual knows how to be a good leader; however, a lack of title doesn’t necessarily mean an individual cannot be a good leader.


A CEO, vice president, director or even a manager may have the title; yet lack leadership skills. And a non-manager or entry-level person may lack the title, yet be able to effectively lead.


While some say leaders are “born vs. made,” leadership skills can be learned and continuously improved. Anyone can be a leader – regardless of title – although some may not know how to effectively lead without the title.


When I was 27, I worked for a $4 billion international firm and had no title. I was given responsibility to lead a global team comprised of vice presidents, directors and managers – many from other countries and most I had never met. 


The team was successful because those with titles demonstrated leadership by allowing me to lead. I learned how to informally lead, without the title. Anyone can lead – and we need more leaders for successful organizations and a prosperous community.


Basic leadership skills to consider when leading in an organization or volunteer endeavor include:

  • Learning and developing yourself. Invest in yourself and seek others to learn from.
  • Developing others. Mentor others and share your skills.
  • Being responsible for outcomes – good and bad. Good leaders know how to communicate we vs. I. Success comes from a team (“we succeeded”), while the buck stops with you if things go wrong (“I failed”).

Over time, the No. 1 leadership skill may be humility. Laugh at yourself. Admit mistakes. The phrases “I was wrong” or “I apologize” can do wonders. The best leaders – with or without title – have learned the importance of humility.

While leadership is about results, great leaders are ultimately remembered neither by their results nor by their words. They are remembered by the lives they touched and the positive feelings experienced by others. 

The best leaders are servants to others and use their heart as much, if not more, than their head. Ultimately, leadership is about self-reflection, recognizing your skills, demonstrating humility, and embracing humanity.

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