Is Humility Essential to Good Leadership?

Are you a Mom, a Dad, a coach, a boss, an older brother, or an older sister? If you are then believe me when I tell you that you’re a leader. And if you’re a leader it’s worth your while to learn to lead well! It will change your life!

Check out this video of junior Democratic Senator Al Franken before reading the rest of this post.

The question posed in this post is: is humility essential to good leadership? Consider this excerpt from Traveler and the Chaplain and the words of Jesus in the italics toward the end of the excerpt.

“So what is it then? What is humility?” Traveler asked.
“Humility is an absence of pride that comes from a keen awareness of who I am in comparison to God.”
Traveler sat with a blank look.
“Let me try to explain,” said the Chaplain. “Name one of the most famous athletes in the history of our planet.”
“Uhmm… Michael Jordan?”
“OK, he played basketball right?”
“Yes. You have to ask?”
The Chaplain ignored the question. “Suppose you and a friend were playing basketball together on the same team as Michael Jordan. And at the end of the game the three of you combined for 50 points: you scored 1; your friend scored 2; and Michael Jordan scored 47.”
“That sounds about right.”
“How ridiculous would it be for your friend to then deride you for not scoring as many points as he? It was Michael Jordan who scored all the points!”
“I guess it would be pretty silly,” Traveler said.
“How much greater is the difference between man and God than the difference between your friend and Michael Jordan?”
“The difference is infinite?” Traveler answered half asking.
“Yes, that’s right!” the Chaplain said excitedly. “The difference is infinite! Remember the story that Jesus told of the Pharisee and the tax collector?”
“Yes”
The Chaplain continued, “Two men went into the temple. The first, a Pharisee, thanked God for making him superior to the other who was a tax collector. The tax collector, recognizing that he was a sinner, simply asked God for mercy. Jesus said…
I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 18:14
“One of these men, the tax collector, recognized that in comparison to God he was but dust, he was a sinner, he was in need of God’s mercy. Pride manifested itself in the other, in the Pharisee, as he compared himself to another human. Comparing yourself to another human is ridiculous in the context of God’s majesty, and God’s majesty is ever present. Therefore it is always ridiculous to compare yourself to another human.”

This ties into a great teaching on leadership that I heard at the Applegate Christian Fellowship’s http://www.applegatefellowship.org/ last Wednesday (12/16/09) night service.

In Jesus’ last public sermon, recorded in Matthew 23 Jesus is teaching on leadership and using the Pharisees and the teachers of the law as an example. He starts with 1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.

The meaning of the word sit, in the original language, communicates the idea that they seated themselves. A good leader never has to “seat himself or herself.” That is they should follow the teaching from Jesus in Luke 14:7-11 Don’t take the place of honor, But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Back to Matthew 23:8 Jesus goes on to say, “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

This idea that we are all brothers and sisters, that we are all the same relative to Christ, is also expressed by the Chaplain in Traveler and the Chaplain.

“Comparing yourself to another human is ridiculous in the context of God’s majesty, and God’s majesty is ever present. Therefore it is always ridiculous to compare yourself to another human.”

Is humility an essential characteristic of  a good leader? Three times, once in Matthew and twice in Luke, Jesus says that those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted — each time in the context of current leadership.

What do you think about Al Franken’s behavior?

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