Must a Great Leader Have Humility?

This past week, I had the chance to talk with a man who I knew and respected; but, I had never considered him to be a leader. Our conversation changed my mind on this point.

He shared a story about a situation in which he had recently found himself; a situation in which he disagreed with an associate. As he recounted the incident, it became clear that, while the disagreement had been resolved, it still bothered him … a lot. When he finished his story, I told him that I sensed the incident was still bothering him even though, by his own admission, the disagreement had been resolved and the incident had been put behind them. It was his response that changed my opinion of him as a leader. He said,

“I was put in charge of this project because my judgment was trusted; because people believed that I could separate my personal feelings from the position and its authority and do what was right and best for the group. In this case, I failed … I allowed my personal feelings to override my judgment and create conflict where I should have been preventing it. I handled the whole thing badly.”

I asked him what he thought he should have done; or, were he to find himself in that situation again, what would he do differently. After a few minutes of silence, he shared with me what he thought he should have done; what he would do differently; how he should have responded to his associate.

Great Leaders recognize that they are imperfect human beings; that they will sometimes make mistakes. Rather than ignoring their imperfections, they review the event that they feel could have been better handled, they reflect on it and look at the options that they did not initially consider. Great Leaders have the humility to acknowledge that they can still improve their leadership skills. They see these errors in judgment as opportunities to learn and to grow, to become better leaders. This conversation made me realize that this gentleman was, in fact, a leader who was well on his way to becoming a Great Leader.

The odds are that you, too, have had this kind of opportunity to improve your leadership skills; to become a better leader, perhaps a Great Leader. Click comment and share your experience.

Tom Hoisington is a speaker, trainer, and author whose goal is to provide leaders and potential leaders with tools that empower them to build teams that are creative and cost effective along with a clearer understanding of how personality types interact within those teams. He can be contacted at

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