The press, organizations, sports teams and even faith communities tend to give many accolades to the individual. For some reason, we have confused respect for individual talents and gifts with the idea that we need to hold up individuals as more important than an organization or movement.
While leaders are important and accomplishments should be recognized, I think that this has lead to an ego-feeding sickness. Look no farther than the Kobe Bryant’s or Terrell Owen’s of professional sports.
Leaders and top performers are no more important than any one else in the organization or team.
Here are (failed) attempts at humility on the part of business leaders that I have talked to:
- “Our receptionist is the most important person in the organization.” No. Simply untrue. An attempt to hold her in high regard is really your way of saying that she actually needs that approval. She is no more or less important than anyone else.
- “I have an open door policy. I mean, we are all about team here.” If you have to say it, then it is, most likely, not the case. I walk around with this same owner and his employees glare at him with the disdain of a mother-in-law. If you have to do a lot of “team building” rah-rah seminars, then you are probably not working as a team. The major block to that happening could be weak leadership.
- We care about our employees by giving them birthday cards and throwing holiday parties. These are good things, but they are empty and frothy if a true investment in others is not there. If this is your example of caring and creating a team environment, then such an environment does not exist.
The costs associated with not building leadership are incredible. All of the time and investment required to find new people is not worth it. The tools are there. It takes a leader to recognize strengths and build on them in a way that highlights team success.
Here is a quote from an admired business owner that I think draws the best line between humility and ambition within the context of building team leadership:
You really are working and living for something greater than yourself, for whom selfishness has no place and hope requires strategic action. Behave accordingly. Humbly move forward knowing it is not about you but your impact upon others. Make your impact a positive one wherever possible. Give more than you receive, expecting nothing in return, because others will have to account for their actions or lack thereof. ‘Doing right’ often will not have support from others, but do it anyway. Have vision, share it and move decisively towards it by doing the right things for the right reasons, knowing that every decision has consequences. Seek decisions that result in positive consequences for the long haul.”
—Brenda Newberry, president, The Newberry Group
There are no excuses for not executing vision and doing things right. However, doing things right does not mean forsaking others. By duplicating yourself, you create a group of people ready to be leaders in their own right.
The Newberry Group recently took this to another level when Brenda and Maurice Newberry decided to turn the company over to the employees. Brenda’s wisdom is evident in her decisions and not so much in what she says. She created enough leadership within her organization to trust her creation to the hands of her employees. She knows that it is not about her but her impact upon others that makes her successful.
Ask yourself, in what ways am I faking humility to gain favor of others or to manipulate employees? If you can find some, then welcome to the human race. Once it is recognized, understand that you will never be as successful as you hope to be until you can create success for others.
Jeremy Nulik, Creative Energy Officer (CEO), St. Louis Small Business Monthly