To be a better leader you have to be humble and wise, hungry and smart!


“Are you humble and wise?  How about hungry and smart?  You need all 4 to get from Here to There!” [This is my Sunday column from the August 28, 2016 Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette]

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For more than 20 years at his Chicago-based Global Leadership Summit, Willow Creek Community Church pastor Bill Hybels is known to say: “Everyone wins when leaders get better.”
At this year’s August 11 and 12 event, Hybels showcased the likes of Melinda Gates, Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, John Maxwell, renown leadership expert,  and T.D. Jakes, named by TIME Magazine as America’s best preacher.
            In his talk to kick-off the summit, Hybels challenged the nearly 200,000 who attended the event in one of the hundreds of satellite venues across the United States and worldwide by saying that an organization will only be as healthy as the leader wants it to be.  Because he believes every teammate is God’s treasure, Hybels says leaders must strive to change the story line of people’s lives for the better.  No question in Hybels’ view that people will long remember how their leaders treated them. 
            For Hybels, the foundation of leadership is an integration of both humility and wisdom.  That belief keeps Hybels on his knees, asking God every day to keep him humble and to impart wisdom to do what is best to make better lives for his team members.  
            Picking up on this call for humility among leaders, Patrick Lencioni, best-selling business author, spoke of ideal team players as humble, hungry and smart. They are not obsessed with their status.  They share credit; they emphasize team over self; and they define success collectively rather than individually.
Good leaders add hunger to their humility. They constantly want learn more. They want responsibility. They look for it. You don’t have to push hungry employees. They are self-motivated.  To humble and hungry you add smart. Now you have the elements of a great team player. 
This is not IQ smart. It is Emotional intelligence.  Great team players are smart because they have common sense about people. They tend to know what is happening in group situations. They try hard to intuitively read the subtleties of the group dynamics. And yet, if even one of these 3 elements is missing, teamwork may come screeching to a halt.
            This got me thinking about the way leaders actually expect team members to respond to them. Kentucky Pastor Ron Edmondson coaches pastors and says that expectation often determines the response the leader gets. Maybe you see yourself as humble, hungry and smart.  But do you ever wonder how people on your team expect you will respond to them?
            Isn’t it true that if people think you will respond angrily, they usually will dance around the issues, and not confront you or bring issues to your attention?  If your team members expect you to respond defensively or with a closed mind to every idea that does not come from you, they will only respond to your ideas and not take the risk of sharing their own ideas. What if they think you will condemn them? They might make excuses when things go wrong, or worse, hide information from you.  Who wants to approach a leader considered unsafe and unapproachable?
            If your employees think you will demean them or speak sarcastically, you never will know their true feelings. Your relationship will be surface-level at best. What about those team members who expect the leader to respond with the final say to every decision?  No more new ideas coming from them, leaving them feeling unfulfilled and under-utilized.
            On the other hand, what if people see in you the unique combination of humble, hungry and smart?  What if they see you readily admit your mistakes? What if they see you as a person who is daily seeking to be wise in the way you lead? What if they see you do more than is required? What if they see “smarts” in the way you show empathy to others on the team?
            Imagine what that will do to the health of your team. Suddenly you find your team expecting you to support them. They begin offering you their opinions. They expect you to respond to them with care and understanding, and you find someone sharing his heart and his pain with you. They expect you to respond by empowering them. Suddenly you find them more likely to take risks and willing to try something new. They expect you to respond with grace and a listening ear. They start coming to you for help, bouncing ideas off you and soliciting your ideas for their individual improvement.
            Bill Hybels got at the heart of the issue when he said what people on your team really want to know is if you are proud of them. Well, are you?  Do you tell them?  It is hard work integrating humble, hungry and smart.  But if your team sees you striving for that, they will move forward with you. When those around you see you practicing humility and trying to be wise in every decision you make, they will understand the meaning of “Everyone wins when leaders get better.”

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