Humility in Leadership
The following post is adapted from my personal academic coursework.
The Importance of Humility in Developing Leadership
Submissiveness is important for all leaders, and even more so for Christian leaders. Submissiveness and the humility it produces are important in transitioning from relying on one’s leadership traits to developing one’s leadership skills.
Undervaluation of Humility
While Timothy may have been speaking to women, I think humility is equally important to men and is among the most undervalued leadership qualities in modern society. Perhaps this is due to the idea that leaders must be hierarchically above those that follow them and the belief that humility lowers one’s status. C. S. Lewis countered this line of reasoning, stating that a humble person “will not be thinking about humility; he will not be thinking about himself at all.” Rick Warren similarly wrote that “humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
Focus on Others
Upon what or whom, then, should humble people think? First, Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) extols us to meditate on whatever is noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Beyond this, we must consider those whom we lead. Rath and Conchie explained that “most extraordinary leaders… …realize that their impact on this world rests in the hands of those who follow.” Nadelhoffer et al. echoed this in suggesting that “being humble is not a function of being out of touch with one’s accomplishments and self-worth, but rather of being “decentered” when it comes to the self, with one’s focus being shifted away from oneself and towards one’s duties and obligations to others.” Worthington and Worthington clarify that “humility is not about understanding people… …in general; it is about listening to and staying engaged with each [person] to meet the needs of that particular [person] within the bounds of the relationship.” Humility and leadership both focus on the individual followers.
As we submit to God and learn quietly (1 Timothy 2:11-12), we develop humility. This humility allows us to learn the skills necessary to supplement our God-given leadership traits as we lead those whom He has entrusted to us.
Holy Bible, New King James Version. (2020). Thomas Nelson (Original work published 1982).
Lewis, C. S. (1960). Mere Christianity. McMillian. https://www.dacc.edu/assets/pdfs/PCM/merechristianitylewis.pdf
Nadelhoffer, T., Wright, J. C., Echols, M., Perini, T., & Venezia, K. (2017). Some varieties of humility worth wanting. Journal of Moral Philosophy, 14(2), 168-200. https://doi.org/10.1163/17455243-46810056
Rath, T., & Conchie, B. (2008). Strengths based leadership. Gallup, Inc.
Warren, R. (2002). The purpose-driven life. Zondervan.
Worthington, J. D. & Worthington, E. L. (2019). Spiritual formation by training leaders in their indigenous cultures: The importance of cultural humility and virtue theory. Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, 12(1), 112-134. https://doi.org/10.1177/1939790918798826