I popped into a Twitter chat about leadership and humility last night. One of the questions posed was this:
“Is humility technique or character?”
One of the folks in the chat loosely defined humility as a “tool” to be “used.” In essence, humility is a crescent wrench in the leader’s proverbial toolbox. I don’t like this idea. I don’t like it one bit. Starting with the definition of the word, here’s why.
humility – (n.) A modest or low view of one’s own importance
By Definition, Humility is Character
- Humility is a quality; an essence of being.
- It recognizes who you are as opposed to what you do.
- It is a description, not an action.
Humility Can’t Be a Skill or Technique
- Humility is not something you can pick up and use when the mood strikes you.
- Humility is not a methodology that you can intellectually learn.
- You can’t sit down and build up your humble “chops.”
Who Would Even Try to “Use” Humility?
A proud person would.
This is my main beef with the idea of using humility as a tool or a technique. Only a prideful person would walk into a situation wondering what level of humility to “use.” A truly humble leader wouldn’t come close to having that thought.
A humble leader would just walk into the room and be who they already are.
Are you in a position where you’re discerning between times to be prideful and times to be humble? If so, you’re heading for a world of hurt. Humble leaders slowly build great organizations. Proud leaders quickly destroy them.
But Isn’t Pride a Virtue?
No, but we were all raised to believe that it is. As Augustine would put it, ”Pride is the mother of all sin.” It is the antithesis of humility. Humility says “I love you.” Pride says “I love me.“ Which do you think will lead to a healthier life?
Pride is the rabid enemy of love, whereas humility is the epitome of love. Great leaders create, cultivate, and inspire love in people’s lives. This is the reason why they become great. To be proud is to be unloving.
I’ll show you how by closing with our favorite definition of love…
1 Corinthians Chapter 13, verses 4-7 NIV (Commentary in bold)
Love is patient. Pride is always in a hurry.
Love is kind. Pride is cruel if need be.
[Love] does not envy. Pride wants what it does not have.
[Love] does not boast. Pride drives us to puff ourselves up.
[Love] is not proud. Pride is not love.
[Love] does not dishonor others. Pride seeks to tear others down.
[Love] is not self-seeking. Pride seeks the glorification of self.
[Love] is not easily angered. Pride is hot-tempered and easy to rile.
[Love] keeps no record of wrongs. Pride is always keeping score.
Love does not delight in evil. Pride does not hesitate to do evil.
[Love] rejoices with the truth. Pride rejoices in lies.
[Love] always protects. Pride always destroys.
[Love] always trusts. Pride is always suspicious.
[Love] always hopes. Pride is always in despair.
[Love] always perseveres. Pride always leads to death.
A Pastoral Post-Script
The default mode of my heart is pride, so I understand this struggle intimately. I’m begging you to fight alongside me. We must not look at humility as a tool to be used, but an ideal to be passionately pursued by God’s grace.
I’m begging each of you who would read this to set aside your pride and become a humble, loving leader. I promise you, your example will touch more people than you can imagine.
If you’d like an example of what humility looks like, click here.