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Striving for Humility While Rising in the Army

Few attributes will engender loyalty and respect amongst those you lead more quickly than leading with Humility. - Guest blogger Major General (Retired) Doug Crissman

As a young leader, I felt it was important to come across as competent, capable, and

self-confident – always; no matter what. Never let my superiors, peers, or subordinates see me lacking a bias for action. I felt my team expected me to have the answers and that my job was to provide them in a clear, concise, and confident manner. While this approach wasn’t completely ineffective (or wrong necessarily), I recognized over time that it was incomplete.

As I matured as a leader, I realized I needed to tailor my approach to focus less on what I personally brought to the team and more about what I could help the team deliver through my leadership. In short, it was increasingly about how I could lead with Humility.

The Army describes Humility in its simplest form as the absence of arrogance. Competence, confidence, and character are still essential leader attributes, but leaders must also be highly self-aware and recognize their own limitations and strengths…and more importantly, incorporate that awareness and understanding into how they lead every day.

There is a desired range of Humility for leaders. Too little can be perceived as hubris, too much can cause leaders to come across as shy, timid, or even weak. Either extreme erodes the trust the organization is willing to place in the leader. The sweet spot is a range and is measured by how the leader is perceived rather than how the leader thinks they’re leading.