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We are precluded from sharing areas of weakness with subordinates. Why? First, our definition of humility is focused on more than just sharing drawbacks. We believe doing this would be a problem for any leader—experienced or inexperienced, in dominant or subordinated groups. Instead, we advocate for sharing strengths and weaknesses. Sharing both provides an opportunity for framing defects in the larger context of the person. By doing so, one effectively says, "I have weaknesses," not "I am weak." This is a subtle but significant difference. Second, our definition of humility focuses on sharing a compelling, collective vision. Therefore, subordinates will have a clearer picture of you as a leader when you share an idea and how you see the team moving toward that vision by utilizing the strengths of everyone present to facilitate the weaknesses of everyone present—self-included.


People often mistakenly believe that humble people are meek or display an unwillingness to act. Such a quality would genuinely be a problem for any leader. Humble leader is anything but reticent because they experience transcendence and see that there is something beyond themselves, a vision worth moving toward. As a result, they are leaders focused on serving others' collective interests and needs (Nielsen et al., 2010). Hesselbein states:

Seeing and listening go together. Facing challenges, fostering community involvement, collaborating, and focusing on future relevance and significance is critical for leaders who see things as a whole. These leaders put away the magnifying glass, step back from the details, and engage in the larger world. Because they engage with others and listen carefully, they see through more than one pair of eyes, using the viewpoints of others to enlarge their perspective. Those who know the organization, the community, and the whole society are the leaders of the future. That's the big picture of listening and seeing. (2011, p. 192; emphasis ours)

We consider Hesselbein's statement a prescription and a challenge to those who wish to exercise humble leadership. We must see, listen, and connect to others to accomplish transcendence. What does it mean to "see"? In his 70 Application groundbreaking book on diversity, Martin Davidson (2011) says that making diversity work in organizations requires people to see the difference rather than ignore it or pretend to be color blind to be politically correct.

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