Humility in Leadership

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less”

-C.S. Lewis

The weekend before school starts often provides some troublesome expectations for all parties involved. Teachers, parents, administration, and students may find themselves in the uncomfortable place of thinking: “It’s a holiday weekend, I should relax!” countered by “Oh my gracious, school is about to start and I’m not ready!”. Inevitably panic will ensue in one shape or form but school will start on Tuesday morning, ready or not! The expectation is that school leaders and administration have planned everything perfectly with five different back-up plans for each situation. While that would be a beautiful thing, it’s most likely not the case and instead calls for a leader to have a strategic approach to each situation they encounter from the first day of school until the last. One strategic measure to diffuse some of the tension could be an approach of humbleness.

As stated in the Harvard Business Review, “humility is one of four critical leadership factors for creating an environment where employees from different demographic backgrounds feel included”. Every school and it’s faculty is a melting pot of differences. If  school leaders approach each situation with humbleness, respect, and sincerity I believe the outcome will be better than expected or even planned. None of us know all of the answers or the outcomes and some of the most challenging situations can arise even when preparation is at its best.

The article presents a few ways that leaders can put a selfless leadership style into action by studying leadership styles in six different countries. From the study, the article outlines a few simple ways to initiate humbleness in leadership:

  1. Share your mistakes as teachable moments.
  2. Engage in dialogue, not debates.
  3. Embrace uncertainty.
  4. Role model being a “follower”.

This is a timely reminder of the positive influence that school leaders can have even amidst times of heightened stress in schools. If an administrator can demonstrate that they are not perfect, they are open to communication and trouble-shooting, and that each day is an opportunity to learn, all stakeholders and students will feel the sense of community within the school.


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