The heart of humility is understanding the two fold truth that God has given us strengths as a trust and that the rest of our portfolio is made up of weaknesses where we very much need others.
Much of my work revolves around writing whether my almost daily blog, books, or material for the organization I lead. Writing for me is relatively easy: it energizes and fills me. For most people, writing is a chore and a hassle. I thank God almost daily for His gift of writing which He gave me as a trust to use on His behalf. What I know is that it is His gift so any credit I take is stolen credit. In fact, the stronger our gifting the more credit we owe our creator who created us in Christ Jesus for good works which He prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Humble individuals are very aware of their gifting. I know that God gave me several strong gifts. I also know that the source of those gifts is Christ. I am deeply thankful for how God gifted and wired me but for me to take credit for those gifts when they came from Him is to delude myself into believing I am the source. It would be like a wealthy father sharing his wealth with a son and the son taking credit for creating the wealth. Our gifting is simply those talents that Jesus talked about in his parable of the talents, given to be used for Him while He is away (Matthew 25).
False humility downplays strengths rather than recognizing them. Genuine humility recognizes those strengths as well as the source of the strengths.
Humble individuals are equally aware of their deficits and weaknesses. Each of us has a few strengths and a multitude of weaknesses. That is why we need others around us who in playing to their strengths can make up for our deficits and we theirs. The best leaders intentionally build leadership teams so that they can play to their strengths and ensure that their areas of weakness are managed by others.
One of my key partners is Gary. While I can envision the future and develop organizational strategy I am not great at working the process to get there. Gary is a master at that. Without Gary my leadership would be much less effective. The same goes for each of the ten individuals on my senior leadership team who have huge strengths in areas where I have little or none. Without them, ReachGlobal would not be what it is.
Leaders who try to go it alone delude themselves into thinking that they are good enough by themselves to accomplish the mission God has given them. I have met some of those leaders. Usually they could be called arrogant. Mostly people don’t like to work directly for them. They may have authority but they do not lead out of deep influence and they often garner more fear than respect.
The heart of humility is that whatever strengths we have were entrusted to us by our creator to use on His behalf. And the realization that in our leadership role we deeply need others and it is “us together” rather than "me" alone. In other words it is not about us! It is about a trust we have been given and a team that we need. When Paul tells us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought but to think of ourselves with sober judgement he is getting at this truth. It is not a denial of our abilities but recognition that those abilities are a trust and that we need one another.
We often make far too much a distinction between leaders and those they lead - as if the leader is a more valuable player than the individual who works in the trenches. Here is the truth: the only difference between the leader and the line individual is a matter of gifting. Without the person in the trenches the leader would have nothing to lead and without the leader the person in the trenches would not have the leadership that makes the organization as healthy or effective as it could be. Both parties deeply need one another, both are equally critical players and both have been divinely gifted by the creator with different gifts.
This is why I believe it is sinful when leaders do not treat all of those in the organization they lead with great honor. It is equally sinful when those in the organization are carelessly cynical about their leaders – some people are cynical toward all leadership and gladly admit it. In both cases there is a devaluing of individuals and the gifting God has granted to them.
Humble leaders freely give away the credit for success that comes their way and take responsibility for failures when they come. Prideful leaders do just the opposite: they take the praise for success and blame others for failures. Healthy leaders recognize that success is not about them but about the team together. As for failure, they are the leader and while they may quietly hold others accountable there is never public blame or embarrassment.
It is the heart of humility.