I just finished Tim Elmore’s new book, The Eight Paradoxes of Great Leadership: Embracing the Conflicting Demands of Today’s Workplace. This is a great read that I would recommend to any leader who oversees others in today’s workplace, be they paid staff or volunteers. He discusses 8 paradoxes that leaders have to manage, and one that caught my eye was that “uncommon leaders balance both confidence and humility.”

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, introduced the concept that we know as Level 5 Leaders. These leaders are not leaders in name only; they are the ones who took their companies from being simply good to being great, those breakout success stories that outperform and outdistance the competition. These level 5 leaders, according to Collins’ research, were surprising; they were not the charismatic, huge personalities with matching egos that were expected. Instead, they had a surprising sense of humility. Collins wrote that “when something went wrong, they looked in the mirror and said, ‘How can I improve to lead this team better?’ When something went right, they looked out the window and said, ‘Look at this team. Look at what they achieved.’ Both confidence and humility are attractive, and doubly so when combined.”

I teach frequently on the power of a teachable spirit in the life of a catalytic leader. When a leader has and models a humble teachability, understanding that they don’t (and can’t) know it all, but maintaining the mindset of a student, it accelerates not only their own personal development and growth, but also their leadership effectiveness.

Does a teachable spirit mean you lack confidence? Not at all. It simply means you’re not arrogant enough to think (wrongly) that you know it all.

No human being knows it all.

Elmore notes, “humility signals self awareness and authenticity, signals transparency, and invites reciprocation.” Who would not want these attributes to be a part of the teams they lead?

When I coach leaders, I remind them that a teachable spirit is a daily choice they get to make. When we choose that, it affects every part of our leadership. And it communicates to those we lead that we are not only human, but that we are doing what we ask them to do: be a continual learner.

Maintain a humble posture, while confidently leading into what’s ahead. Never stop learning. Never stop growing.

That’s catalytic.


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