Active Humility

As leaders we are called to be humble. This is true in many ways. What immediately jumps to most people’s minds when they think about leaders and humility is that a leader doesn’t take all the credit. That is certainly true but a leader must also be humble in their actions.

What do I mean by that? Simply that when acting a leader must place their focus on others rather than themselves. This is especially true when coaching or working with a less experienced team member. Let me give a couple examples, one from my personal life and one from my professional life.

My kids are still pretty young and my son was doing some cutting with a scissors. He is very capable and was moving quite quickly. My daughter, several years his junior, was watching. As he worked, I realized that if my daughter tried to imitate him she would very likely cut herself. So I asked him to slow down so she could watch how careful he could be. Very understandably he informed me that he didn’t understand why because he was being safe.

I explained that I have every confidence in him, but that I wanted him to show his sister how to go slow and be careful so that she would be safe as she learned to use the scissors. He wasn’t thrilled at first because it was an inconvenience for him, but he did slow down and by the end was very excitedly showing her how to use the scissors safely. He turned his attention from how his actions could bring him the most benefit (moving quickly) to how they could help his sister.

I work for a cable company as a fulfillment technician. I go to people’s homes and install or fix their service. At times I will have another employee who is in training ride out with me. On these days I have a choice. Who do I focus on? I can focus on myself and find my ride along an inconvenience, or I can focus on them and making sure that I take time to explain what I am doing and answer questions.

I’m not perfect. I get irritated more often than I would like to admit when I have to go out of my way or change my routine for the sake of another person. But as a leader, and as a humble leader, I am called to grow and put my focus beyond myself and onto the other whom I am serving.

Besides the basic fact that the attention and focus will help them learn, it also creates a team atmosphere. In all likelihood, the “new guy” or whoever you are working with knows full well that they are slowing you down and are very self-conscious about it. By being humble, putting the focus on them and building them up, they will feel welcomed and excited to be a part of the team.

Even if you don’t have an explicit trainer-trainee relationship, your example affects your whole workplace and culture. You may have the skill, talent, or experience to be able to take shortcuts and still achieve the desired result. But can everyone? If everyone in the office followed your example would it be a good thing? I’m not saying don’t maximize your efficiency or hobble your talents, simply be aware of the example you set and the possible repercussions.

As leaders we are humble in many ways. Do our actions reflect at attitude of humility?

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