How Humble Leaders Make Teams Better (And 3 Ways to Become One)
- Tyler Reagin Author of Life Giving Leader
- 2018 13 Sep
It’s a simple question: Is it easier to trust someone who is arrogant or someone who is humble? Whom would you rather work for: leaders who are convinced they are the reason for the success of the team or leaders who develop others and make them the reason for the team’s success?
Humble leaders attract people. Humble leaders position themselves in ways to make the team around them better. Life-giving leaders, whether at the top of the organization or the bottom, use their perspective to call others to higher leadership. Here are a few ways to pursue humility as a life-giving leader.
Leaders who embody humility are intentional about it. Humility doesn’t happen haphazardly. Leaders who develop it are intentional about putting other people first. They live for something bigger than themselves.
Nothing happens consistently without consistent pursuit. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard tell about what will happen when they win the lottery or get a great job. When people leave their lives to chance, they never make real progress. Likewise, humility doesn’t just happen. You have to work for it. You choose it every moment, and it’s one of the best choices you can make.
What if you said a simple prayer every morning that gets your heart in the proper posture? For example, “Lord, may I walk in step with Your Spirit today. Help me keep the proper perspective. Thank You for making me unique, and may I use my special design to make those around me better. Amen.”
A palms-up approach to the day can keep humility at the forefront, because a simple action such as turning your hands up to God is a physical representation of an internal posture. This doesn’t just happen. You have to be intentional.
Learn to Receive
If you can’t receive encouragement, appreciation, or gifts from others, it can work against the humility you’re trying to build. As leaders, we have to learn how to honor the people around us.
Here’s the best guardrail I’ve put in place to maintain proper perspective while learning to receive gifts: I remind myself they are gifts and not something owed to me. When gifts go from being gifts to being something you think you deserve, you start losing the humility battle.
A while ago my wife and I were invited to attend an event in Los Angeles. It turned out to be awesome and the accommodations were exceptional—beyond anything we’ve stayed at before. The view of Hollywood was incredible. The food was amazing. And we enjoyed being driven around in a car that had a “B with wings” (my wife’s words—it was a Bentley).
After two days I really started to feel as if I was somebody. It was as if I deserved to stay at luxury hotels all the time (whether I can afford them or not).
If you’re not careful, gifts can create dissatisfaction with other places or things in your life. You know what I’m talking about. You’re invited to speak out of state and your host puts you up in the basic hotel chain you’ve stayed at a million times. It stings a little. You may not want to admit it, but you know you were expecting something better.
Humility starts to erode as soon as you feel as if you deserve the gift. Life-giving leaders learn to see gifts as gifts rather than as payment. Maintaining that perspective is crucial to staying humble.
Gratitude Is the Best Attitude
When you lose gratitude, you learn poor attitude. It’s as simple as that. Here’s a dictionary definition of attitude: “A settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.”
That is an important definition. Your way of thinking turns into behavior, and it dictates the way you respond. Right thinking will get you started on the right foot in any situation. The reverse is true as well. If you start with negative thinking, it will result in negative behavior. You cannot assume you will automatically shift back into correct thinking just before the rubber meets the road.
If you keep gratefulness at the center of your thinking, you will see an attitude of gratitude. Humility will follow, and you will be thankful. Who doesn’t want to work for a leader who is thankful for what you do?
Leaders, I know some of you sign your employees’ checks, but they aren’t your personal paychecks that you’re handing over. And your employees are not your private supply of team members. Any one of them—or all of them—could choose to work somewhere else at any time. They choose to work with you, and your sincere expressions of gratitude can keep them around as well as keep them thriving in their jobs.
What if this week you chose gratitude with the people around you? How would that instantly change your organization? Write a thank-you note today. Stop by and thank someone.
We are called to be lights in this world (see Luke 11:33). Lights stand out in the darkness, and God wants His people to be seen—to stand out—in contrast to the surrounding darkness. Arrogance also allows you to be seen. The difference is that when you operate out of arrogance, other people don’t see you as a light.
Humility changes the game for leaders and makes you a light. So many leaders talk about how to have an influence on the workplace that points to Jesus. Humility is so countercultural that people take notice when they see it. Humble leaders are rare, and they give people a perfect connection to the bigger story: the story of God and His work. The pathway to life-giving leadership is paved with humility.
Excerpted from The Life-Giving Leader: Learning to Lead from Your Truest Self. Copyright © 2018 by Tyler Reagin. Used with permission of WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC,.
Tyler Reagin is the President of Catalyst, a leadership development organization that exists to unify and equip leaders who love the Church through resources and experiential events. He is married and has two kids. You can typically find them on the golf course or rooting for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/JD Mason