The Achilles’ Heel of Leadership

Kirk Hanson, professor and executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, shares some great insight on the leader’s achilles’ heel. He says it is found when leaders:

  • Believe they know it all
  • Believe they are in charge
  • Believe the rules don’t apply to them
  • Believe they will never fail
  • Believe they did it all by themselves
  • Believe they are better than the “little people”
  • Believe they are the organization
  • Believe they can focus everything on the job

In essence, pride is the achilles’ heel of leaders. Or as Jim Collins says, “hubris born of success.” So what would happen if we embraced a reversed-version of Hanson’s observations? What if we:

  • Readily admit that we don’t know it all
  • Realized that the people we lead come first
  • Applied the rules to ourselves before others
  • Understood that pride goes before a fall
  • Gave credit to the people who did all the work
  • Flipped the pyramid upside down and became the chief servant
  • Viewed ourselves as only one small piece in a very big puzzle
  • Had a life outside of work

This provides a much better perspective on humility and leadership. I think the Apostle Paul captured it quite well  when he instructed us to follow Jesus’ pattern of humility with these words:

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredible humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death–and the worst kind of death at that–a crucifixion. (Philippians 2:5-8, The Message)

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus became human and yet we try to act like God. Something’s wrong with that picture. Jesus called us to status-busting leadership.

Question:  What roles does humility play in your life?  In your leadership?