Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.
This series of posts flows from two premises and one conclusion: (1) people follow leaders; (2) Jesus is The Perfect Leader; and therefore (3) everyone (including marketplace leaders) should consider following Jesus.
GREAT LEADERS ARE HUMBLE
“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” ~Saint Augustine, early church father and influential theologian
Last week, I explored servant leadership, whereby good leaders serve others within the context of a noble cause greater than themselves. Inextricably bound up in the servanthood paradigm is the character trait of humility. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, being humble has several different meanings including “not proud or haughty” and “ranking low in a hierarchy or scale.”
The latter meaning would seem to fly in the face of typical organizational hierarchies that accord greater status to those of higher rank. However, according to Saint Augustine (generally acknowledged as one of history’s great thought leaders), humility is the cornerstone virtue. In Augustine’s view, all other virtues are inauthentic absent humility.
As with servanthood, the humble leader places a very high value on other people regardless of their position in the social or marketplace hierarchy. Humble leaders affirm the intrinsic value of their followers as well as their ability to contribute to the mission of the organizations they lead.
Is there evidence that humble leadership is good for business? A Forbes Magazine article entitled “The Value Of Humility In Leadership” by Karen Higginbottom addresses this question. Higginbottom provides several examples supporting this thesis including the 2001 study by Jim Collins in his book “Good To Great”. She writes, “his researchers found two distinct characteristics among the leaders of these [the outperforming] companies: humility and a steely determination to do the right thing for the company, no matter how painful.” An excellent Canadian example is Prem Watsa, CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, about whom I wrote in a previous post.
For me, Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of humble leadership. In his letter to the fledgling church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul described Jesus as follows, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
Jesus’ humility takes my breath away! According to the Bible, God the Creator loved every one of us so much He entered the world He created to serve us (His creatures) by dying for us. There never has been and never will be a better example of stooping low! The overwhelming magnitude of Jesus’ humility is exquisitely captured in the following words from “So Will I” by Hillsong Worship,
“God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill you created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die”
Next week, we will examine truthfulness, another key characteristic of great leaders.
Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.