Saturday, October 1, 2011
The book of the week was Humilitas by John Dickson. This is a wonderful book. I have had a run of quite a few okay books and this one I could hardly put down. The way he writes flows so nicely and his ideas blend quite well too. I highly recommend this book to anyone.
But in the context of this blog, let's talk about how this book relates to leadership. The title Humilitas is Latin for Humility. Humility is an incredible feature, unlike a lot of other descriptors: tall, smart, brunette, etc., to be humble is not an overnight achievement nor is it something perceived in the length of a conversation. And even though it's not an easy attribute to witness it marks the pinnacle of traits which a top tier leader must possess.
But let me back track...
In this book Dickson makes a profound, yet, simple conclusion that leadership is a mix of two things: Example and Persuasion. To be an example is to lead authentically and act as you would expect your followers to act. Persuasion is communicating in a way that brings about changes. It's easy to talk at people but if you aren't persuasive, you will not be able to change their behavior or influence their ideas. Leadership is simple on paper, but challenging in practice.
It's a hard trait to achieve. It seems that if we don't talk about our own achievements in this fast paced world that we will go unnoticed and overlooked for promotions or praise. And quite frankly, sometimes that is true. Again, it takes time for the trait of humility to even be noticed in a person. However, when someone truly possess humility, it stops becoming about the promotions and praise and starts becoming about the people that work with them. These people will always take the blunt of failure on their own shoulders and push praise to the people they 'serve.'
When someone achieves this trait they have the potential to become a powerhouse leader. This is because they are perceived to be genuine and authentic. They have the first half being a leader down: being and example. And they can easily persuade and inspire their people because the words that come from this person's mouth have always been self-less, so when the leader speaks, the followers listen because they understand, without it being explicitly said so, it's always in their best interest.
This book details accounts of the world's greatest leaders: Einstein, Aristotle, Jesus. Dickson explains the origin of today's culture of humility and leads the reader effectively to become more humble. I'll finish with a quote from C.S. Lewis posted in this book:
"Do not imagine if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call "humble" nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in that you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all."