Is developing humility your top priority?
Updated: Mar 29
If you've read Jim Collins' instant classic Good to Great, you may remember one of his most surprising conclusions: all of the companies that made the leap from good to great were led by humble leaders (what he called Level 5 Leaders). This was not an insight Collins was expecting to find. In fact, he rejected it several times before he could finally ignore it no longer. But the evidence was clear: humble leadership was a distinguishing factor for the very best organizations.
You'd think that this finding would inspire leaders everywhere to make developing humility a top priority. After all, it was a key factor that enabled these companies to do 7 times better than their competition! But let me ask you: is “become a humbler leader” at the top of your priority list right now?
I'm guessing you said no.
Why? Well, you probably know humility is important and that you have room to improve here. But my bet is you either don’t truly believe it’s the secret to your success as a leader or you don’t know how to develop it.
Maybe humility is on your “ought to” list, but there are so many other things that seem more important: increasing your numbers, filling that vacant position, or just managing the day-to-day whirlwind. Humility is nice, but let’s be honest: you’ve got other fires to put out. It's not critical in your mind.
Or maybe you do think it’s that essential, but the question is: where do you start? How do you actually become a humbler leader? Do you have to meditate for 3 hours a day? Give up all your opinions or career ambitions? Let Gary walk all over you? Because we rarely talk about developing humility, there's not a clear cut path forward. And lacking that clear path, it’s much easier to just leave humility on the wish list and forget about it for now.
If this describes you, then I have good news: I am writing a book for you. I’m going to spend the first half of the book showing why humility really is the clear difference between good leaders and great leaders. Using the best social science research alongside examples of humble leadership in action, I hope to move you from knowing that humility is important to believing it is essential. And then in the second half of the book, I want to give you some practical steps to take that will enable you to become humbler on Day 1. The great news is that you can take small-but-meaningful steps every day to both become humbler and more effective as a leader.
If you want to deliver the Good to Great level of success for your organization, humility is the first step forward. I know you may not be sold on humility yet--and you may not know how to attain it--but stay tuned. There is a book on its way for you.
 No, you’re not imagining it; Gary really is a jerk. If you’re reading this, Gary, it’s time to get your act together.