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  • Mar18Mon

    The Humble Leader

    Having a modest view of your own importance can win respect. March 18, 2013 by Major Kathie Chiu
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    Photo: ©

    A colleague recently sent me an invitation to join LinkedIn, a website for professional networking. I began to fill out my profile and answer the questions: “Where have you worked? What do you do? What are some of your skills and expertise?” People you connect with then have an opportunity to “endorse” you for certain skills, lending credibility to your claims. As I began to fill in the information it occurred to me that I was fine with answering questions about where I worked and what I did, but when it came to listing what I was good at and the skills I had gained, I felt a little uncomfortable. Why was I putting this out there for the world to see?

    As Christians we are taught that we shouldn't think more highly of ourselves than we ought. The Apostle Paul tells the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

    How much clearer can this be? And yet, in order to get ahead in the workplace, you have to take a seat at the table, offer your input and let them know that you know what you're talking about. Even a job interview is an exercise in shameless self-promotion. This all flies in the face of how a Christian is supposed to behave. Our goal is to be like Christ, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant …” (Philippians 2:6-7).

    In recent years, however, there seems to be growing interest in the idea and study of the humble leader. Could Paul have been on to something? Jim Collins, in his pioneering article on effective leaders in the January 2001 edition of the Harvard Business Review, proposed that the “most powerfully transformative executives” surveyed in his study all possessed the virtue of personal humility. Recent studies conclude that people want to follow a humble leader. According to a study in the Academy of Management Journal, humble leaders are more effective and better liked. The study, by Bradley Owens of the University of Buffalo School of Management and David Hekman of the Lubar School of Business, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, looked into how humble leaders operated in the workplace and if they behaved differently than a non-humble leader.

    The study also claimed that humility made some people more effective than others. If you were a white male, it worked. If you were a non-white or a woman, the study showed that you constantly had to prove your competence, making you appear less humble. When women, in particular, showed more humility, their competence was called into question. It's called a double bind—which accounts for why it's so difficult for me to list the things I'm good at or have accomplished. Instinctively I know what people might say about me that they might not say about my male colleagues.

    Perhaps the definition of humility will help us better understand how we can embrace this concept. Humility is freedom from pride or arrogance; a modest estimate of one's own worth; meekness. From the Latin humilis meaning earth, a humble person is down-to-earth. It is not about self-abasement; rather, it's about not using your position of power for personal gain. Consider Jesus' example of selflessness when he offered to wash his disciples' feet, then knelt before them to do it. A leader who is humble:

    • acknowledges the efforts of others and prioritizes the team's interests ahead of her own.

    • is willing to be vulnerable by admitting mistakes.

    • is driven to achieve for the company, not personal acclaim.

    If you work for a humble leader, chances are you work with a happy and productive team. There is likely little turnover in your workplace and you celebrate each other's accomplishments. Your leader is also easy to approach and you often share your concerns with her. You have a good relationship with your leader because you know that she only wants what is best for you and for the team. Humble leaders want individual employees to thrive in their role, because when they are successful, everyone wins.

    Augustine of Hippo (354-430) wrote, “Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.”

    Major Kathie Chiu is the corps officer of Victoria's High Point Community Church.


    On Friday, May 3, 2013, jim bellingham said:

    Very interesting, caught my eye because I signed up with Linkedin, also at the request of friends, when my employer of 13 yrs suddenly closed. I felt God calling me possibly to camp minitries, but at 45 with 4 children and sole income earner, was cautioned by Christian mentors. I was raised AGC, then attended Alliance, Baptist, then SA. I listed my occupation and interests all in the field of Christian ministry, NOTHING from my technical background. Recently, I read a book, "Undaunted" by Josh McDowel. Interestingly enough, given to me by one of the MOST respected Christian SA older woman from our corp. (Meadowlands, Hamilton. ON). My wife was raised SA but left, not by her own choice, to attend san AGC church, which was GOD's plan for us to meet. He then eventually led us back to the SA, because we saw "traditional Christian values" in the SA, something alot of the main line "Christian" churches are losing in their quest for "tolerance" and to increase attendance! I maintain that "quality" exceeds "quantity". I feel that the SA can still keep a thumb omn the pulse of individual corps. I have MANY friends from MANY denominations, and almost every one, if NOT everyone has some family connection to the SA. I really believe we are the corp. of the "second chance", multiple for some. While my "qualifications" on Linkedin may seem frivolous or insignificant to some, my technical abilities are an aside, as GOD has OTHER values, and so should we. Unfortunately, I wound up in another technical job, choosing NOT to follow the leading, real or wishful, into camp ministries. After reading Josh's book, just finished it, it renews the question "What if.....". I sit here in Winnipeg airport, waiting for my flight home to Hamilton, I see alot of sad/hurting people in this city. I realize the SA can't help everyone, but then, not everyone wants help! The best I can do is provide for my family both at home and at the corp.. It hurts to hear/read comments like the above, and I don't doubt for a minute that they are valid points of view. ALL mainline denominations have these issues, some stay and try to change things, some move on to other denominations. My wife and I FOUGHT to change things and made no progress so we moved on. We know the SA isn't perfect and that our corp. is an oasis for sure. The War Cry will always be the War Cry and Meadowlands will always also be Hamilton Temple, in honour of the MANY departed and soon to depart, on their "Promotion to Glory".

    On Tuesday, April 23, 2013, Donald Jefcoat said:

    Regardless of what some think When William Booth was given the choice by the Elders of his denomination to stop his work or go it alone he went out to plant churches. We can call them what you will but if he was just an outreach mission we wouldnt have ever met coprporatly. William Booth founded a biblical based church system resembling and using millitary symbols. And it worked. In reality the Holiness Revival ministry God gave The Salvation Army saw multitudes of new converts. The decline in numbers is because we have left all that behind.

    I chose to leave the Army not because of changes to tradition but because I noticed over the years that the Army was becoming nothing more then the United Church. We had left behind outward evangelism, we stopped having alter calls, the singing was becoming non powerfull. Even the messages were so watered down that a speach on table manors would have caused a stir. Even my gifts were not useable because the local corps had become no more then a way to waste an hour on Sunday.

    I would return to Army ranks in a heart beat if they stopped trying to conform to the ways of the world and once again became the unique ministry that was given to them.

    On Sunday, March 24, 2013, H. Glenndyn Necho said:

    Being the son of officers who preached from the pulpit that it was God, the Army and then family, I grew up hating being # 3 on the list but I could understand where they were coming from. Yes there are many thing that could be different and possibly better. What really burns me is everyone trying to change The Army into a church. It was never meant to be a ‘church”. The leaders were “Officers” not padres, or pastors etc and the faithful were Soldiers. If I said Church (referring to the ARMY) near Dad, he would quickly correct me with the Bible or Song Book or War Crys, whatever he had in his hand that would knock some sense in my head. To be fair I used to tease him and then duck.

    That’s the reason I don’t have very much to do with the Army today. If I wanted to go to ‘Church’ I would go to a Catholic, Anglican or United Church.

    People can adapt to the time but why reject the foundation on which the Army was built? Children were not christened, they were Dedicated. Your final promotion whether Officer or Soldier was to Glory.

    Get back to the teaching and preaching of the Founders and quit the pretences

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