Global Leadership Summit 2011 – John Dickson

John Dickson (Director, Centre for Public Christianity; Author of “Humilitas”)


Humility is not humiliation. It is not low self-esteem or hiding your talents or achievements.

It is the noble choice to forgo your status and use your influence for the good of others before yourself.

Humility makes the great greater!

1. Humility is common sense.

None of us is an expert at everything.

A true expert in a subject knows as much as there is to know about that particular subject. That expert, then, must also know that what he or she doesn’t know and can’t do far exceeds what they already know!

2. Humility is beautiful

“We are more attracted to the great who are humble than we are to the great who know it and want us to know it, too.”

In ancient Greece, one of the ancient virtues was to love your own honor. How have we, in Western Culture, come to change our thinking and be attracted to humility?

A man named Jesus and his crucifixion literally was the turning point of thinking about humility.

WOW! This is what their line of reasoning became…

“If the greatest man we have ever known willingly sacrificed his life on the cross, the innocent for the guilty, then greatness must consist in willing sacrifice…withholding power for the good of others.”

Even in non-christian western culture, the attraction we feel toward humility quite literally has been profoundly shaped by the cross of Christ.

Philippians 2:3-8 is the most beautiful portrait of beautiful humility that can possibly exist!

3. Humility is generative

Humility generates new learning.

The scientific revolution is a result of the humility revolution. As weird as it sounds, humility generated science.

The humble place is the place of growth – confronting our mistakes and confronting our lack of knowledge in a particular area will cause us to grow as a result. It takes humility to confront our mistakes and truly know where we need to grow.

The humble place is the place of flourishing.

At work, it is the criticism that you know is true. This is the place where you will grow the most!

Accurate criticism is your best friend because it is your FAST TRACK to improvement. Whether it is accidental or deliberate, the low place is the generative place.

4 Humility is persuasive

For 2000 years, the textbook for persuasion was written by Aristotle called “On Rhetoric”: There must be logos (intellectual) pathos (emotion) and ethos (the character of the persuader) in an argument.

To those of us in the persuading business, the most believable person in the world is the person you know has your best interests in their heart.

5. Humility is inspiring

“The real power of effective leadership is maximizing other people’s potential, which inevitably demands ensuring they get the credit…We have stopped inspiring others to great heights” (don’t know who wrote this, but it was a high level military officer)

When our great leaders are approachable and have time for us, we don’t just admire them, we inspire to be like them!

Leaders normally have 4 tools to play with: ability, authority, character, and persuasion.

But here is the interesting thing! Some of the most inspiring leaders in history had no structural authority. They just had truckloads of ability, character and persuasion!

Sometimes you don’t need the power to hire and fire to change individuals in your church or business. You don’t need to have the keys for the Kingdom to have an impact in the Kingdom.

This is awesome! I can have a real impact through character and persuasion, which comes from humility that is inspiring, persuasive, generative and beautiful.

Humble leaders inspire us to “punch way above our weight class” and lead us to believe that if they are just like us then we can be just like them. (Great story of meeting Bono and the Edge when he and his bandmates were only 16 years old. After that encounter where Bono and the Edge were very humble and gracious and willing to answer their questions, the band went on to spend the next decade believing they could do everything they aspired to.)

Personal Insight – It’s just a great reminder to know that humility is not at all the same as low self-esteem. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s an inner-strength and satisfaction in who I am and who God says I am. And then it is a conscious decision to take on humility as the greatest virtue…just as Jesus humbled himself. I want to buy this guy’s book. I think it will be a great read and a great reminder!

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