- Thu 19 Jul 16:45 via Twitter for Blackberry @marxists (CIO, Texas Health Resources) writes — Humility is the X factor for superior leadership. #ahasummit #yam
- Thu 19 Jul 16:46 via Twitter for iPhone @drexdeford (VP/CIO, Steward Health Care) writes — Collins: The x-factor of good leadership is humility, and will to hire people smarter than us #ahasummit
- Humility: the quality or state of being humble
- Humble: 1: not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive; 2: reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission <a humble apology>; 3: ranking low in a hierarchy or scale : insignificant, unpretentious
I don’t know about you, but, if words matter, and I think they do, I’ll pass on making humility the X-factor of my leadership abilities, despite what management guru Jim Collins said at the AHA Summit. I don’t think people eagerly follow those who are unassertive, submissive and seemingly insignificant.
Upon being made Prime Minister of Great Britain after the fall of France in 1940, Winston Churchill (and who can find a better example of leadership) said he felt a sense of calm come over him. After 40 years in public life, that calmness was the result of experience, preparation and confidence, not humility. It is confidence, born of hard work, that allows us to make great decisions. In order to act, we must believe that we know as well, or preferably better than, anyone else.
Humility, on the other hand, means we aren’t sure we know, know we don’t know, or are happy to admit that others may know better. Taken to an extreme, one might ask, if you’re so unsure, what makes you the final arbiter of action?
I think humility is largely a politically-correct veneer worn by those who know it constitutes the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. Scratch the surface of a leader who has done great things and you’ll quickly uncover audacity and fearlessness.
This is not to say there is no role for gathering and considering opinions, but a leader raised to worship at the altar of humility may not have the courage to reject the counsel of subordinates — and that, in fact, is the true mark of a great leader. To have doubts is not courageous or admirable, nor is to solicit advice, but to reject that advice when it’s deemed faulty, keeping in mind where the total responsibility for failure will lay, is sublime.
Unless under extreme pressures (battle conditions, etc.) this rejection should be explained to those who contributed to the discussion. “I understand that there was unanimous opinion in this room that we should not go, but, based on the following assumptions, considerations and factors, here is why I have decided we will move forward.” This gesture of respect must be returned by those in the room with one of two possible responses: total adherence to the new policy or resignation. And so it goes.
Great leaders first need to believe, foundationally, that they know a lot, and will often get it right. Constituting a layer upon that foundation should be the confidence, not humility, to solicit opinions without being bound to act in accordance with them.
Let humility be among the final items on your list of leadership ingredients, and you’ll thrive. Among the first, and you may turn around to find no one following. For history shows us it is the bold, not the blind, who lead.