Why it’s Important to Notice Humble Leaders

March Madness is back…and in honor of the year’s finest consecutive four days of sports television, here’s an important MindSet that has roots in sport – humble leaders.

On sports teams where the players have come to know each other well via practices and real-life game situations, team members do not “campaign” to become captain.  Rather, leaders emerge naturally as a result of their commitment, effort, talent, and character.  Some such leaders are fiery and outgoing while others exude a quiet intensity and focus.

Contrast that to political campaigns where candidates, seeking the votes of individuals they have never met, must resort to marketing that is largely boastful self-promotion, e.g., “Vote for me because I will…,” “I will be the one to help…,” or “I am the best qualified to lead….”  It is unfortunate for our city, state, and republic that many individuals who are enormously talented, yet genuinely humble leaders, are deterred from serving in public office by their revulsion at the thought of having to engage in shameless self-aggrandizement.

We sometimes see the same phenomenon within a company setting.  Some individuals, who may very well be quite talented, are brazen in their self-promotion.  Leaders need not worry that these individuals will be overlooked – such employees will make darn sure that they are not!  It is the talented individuals who are uncomfortable with self-promotion for whom leaders must be on the lookout.  The humble employee often requires encouragement before they will seek growth opportunities or promotions.  They may be quite willing to lead the next important intuitive, but they will not “volunteer” themselves until someone asks.  A good leader will notice these individuals, sometimes stepping past the three people strenuously waving their hands in the air as they tell all who will listen what a great job they will do as captain, and ask the quiet and focused player in the back row if they would be willing to assume a leadership role.

We all know that one key to effective leadership is getting the right players in the right positions.  Well, in a business setting that seldom results from simply posting open positions and waiting to see who applies.  Good leaders spot talent in the people they supervise, sometimes even before the employee sees it, and emboldens the growth of that natural ability.  Such leadership is particularly important for those individuals who have internalized the old, small-town, Midwestern value of humility.