The Strategist

Does a leader have to be modest?

06/12/2020 - 03:14

We often hear that a leader must be tough, unbending and have a share of healthy selfishness. However, leadership is not limited to self-confidence. It requires qualities such as empathy, curiosity, the ability to cooperate.

Vinoth Chandar via flickr
Vinoth Chandar via flickr
Most people who look at the phenomenon of leadership from the outside believe that the main quality of a leader is confidence. Indeed, if you are not confident in your own strategy and role, it is unlikely that you will be able to lead others. No one wants to follow a leader who does not fully understand their plans or capabilities.

But what is the basis of confidence? The real confidence (not bravado and not a false feeling, but a genuine awareness of one’s own strength and character) originates not in egoism, but in modesty.

Indeed, self-confidence reflects only our strengths, but does not take into account either our weaknesses or other people's advantages, thereby putting us at risk of catastrophic mistakes. Modesty, however, points to sources of our weaknesses so that we can correct them, and makes it possible to earn the right to confidence.

Where does modesty come from? It has two roots. The first is understanding that for the most part we owe our success to luck. Let's be honest: those who were born, for example, in the USA, are lucky. Just imagine what opportunities they would have if they were born in Haiti, Congo, Bangladesh or Afghanistan.

Second: it is important to understand that there are always people who know more. Accept this thought: you are not the smartest person in your environment. The success of the organization you lead depends on the entire team. To achieve the planned results, you will need the knowledge and help of all its members.

Fundraising is one of the best ways to practice modesty in a managerial position. When you interact with thousands of employees and manage huge budgets and funds, power can strike your head. The modest task of attracting finance is an excellent antidote.

How does a modest leader behave? It provides an opportunity for other people to report on his achievements. He realizes and openly admits that there are things that he cannot fully understand. He willingly accepts help when he feels that he needs it. He takes every opportunity to learn from mistakes and never shies away from challenges, because he sees a potential for development in them. One may decide that modesty means no ambition. But this is not so. Abraham Lincoln, for example, was modest, but ambitious at the same time.

Modesty lies at the basis of other qualities of an outstanding leader: empathy, perception of one's position, and the ability to cooperate. Therefore, it is so important to grow this quality and cherish it.

Based on "Leading Matters. Lessons from My Journey" by John L. Hennessy