Monday, January 24, 2011

Leadership Essentials - Part 3 - Humility

Knowing that I needed to write this article as soon as my hair appointment was done, I asked my stylist what she thought was the most important quality that a political leader should have.  She responded that the most important quality of a  leader is the ability to say they were wrong.  I think her insight is impressive.

I spend enough time at the Legislature to know that the statement 'I was wrong' or 'We made a mistake' isn't commonly heard.  That's not to say it never happens, but it probably doesn't happen often enough.  Before I go further, let me say that I believe that there's a difference between an unpopular decision and an error.  The most dangerous politician is the one who always seeks to make the popular decision.  Leadership isn't about being popular, but unpopular decisions need to be made and presented with humility as well.

In the political realm, the admission of error can be extremely hazardous to your political health.  In some cases it can cost you your job but for the most part, it's really just a matter of pride and ego.  The irony is that in most cases everyone knows a poor decision has been made but the leader carries on as though nothing happened.  The need to be right for the sake of politics and optics too often outweighs the value of  humility and the admission of error.  In the process, the leader loses the respect of those he leads and consequently loses the moral authority to lead.

The prophet Micah spoke about what God seeks in the life of the leader. Simply put, it is to walk humbly, do justly and love mercy. Humility is a stablizing force in the life of a leader.  The humble leader is ever aware that in spite of his or her best efforts, they may still make the wrong decision in the situation.  In my mind, the value of a sincere, 'I was wrong' and I'd like to hear from you about what might work instead  would do wonders to restore credibility and confidence in politicians and our political system that anything else. 

A leader who walks in pride will ultimately bring destruction on the very thing he/she is seeking to build.  A humble leader will find a way through the difficulty through interaction, consensus building, an open door and a flat pyramid.

God, give us humble leaders, who will lead us forward into all of the goodness you have prepared for us in our great province.

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