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The Table Video

Humble Leadership and Service

Dr. Krumrei-Mancuso and Dr. Peter Hill dive into the topic of humble leadership and service. They suggest that servant leadership and the virtue of humility are inextricably tied.


And the goodness of intellectual humility in those contexts. Now, I might set up a problem, like this. What does it mean to be a humble leader? A person that strives to influence other people, right. To win friends and influence people. Strives a form of power, in fact and yet more and more they’re, we’re noticing that humility does impact leadership in a form of humble leadership can, if fact, be the most impacting and effective forms of leadership. How do we hold these things in hand? Striving for power and making yourself less than the other?

You pose a problem, also someone who is a leader who has influence, right, we can define leadership as influence over others. Is not in a position where he or she necessarily has to be humble. So a leader can push his or her own agenda, has the power to do so, by definition of being a leader and so that person is going to be challenged to be humble because it’s not required. And so that’s a great context in which to study leadership and my particular project, on the grant that I was just mentioning, is focusing on servant leadership, which is kind of what you were just describing.

That idea of a person who is motivated by a desire to serve others rather than primarily motivated by the desire to have power and exercise power over others. And so what that looks like, is a person who is in a leadership position but does so because he or she wants to help subordinates develop to be the best that they can be. And to increase wellbeing among the people being led, as to merely exercise power over those individuals. And so one of my questions, for that project, is whether helping people to move in a direction of servant leadership actually increases their intellectual humility. So rather than staging an intervention, where you help people to be more intellectually humble, you actually have an intervention focusing on servant leadership.

What does it mean to be a servant leader and the theory behind this is then that intellectual humility’s actually the vehicle through which they make that happen. So in order to be a servant leader they have to be intellectually humble. They have to realize that other people have valuable ideas to offer, that they might have some things to learn from others and that might allow them to be those servant leaders rather than those only seeking power.


Yeah, Jim Collins wrote a well known book, Good to Great and in that he did some research. It wasn’t all real strong scientific research but it was good research, by and large. And what he discovered is, that in those companies that really sustain over time, doing better than the average, in terms of, often times it was just the bottom line, in terms of profitability, was where leaders seemed to show a good deal of humility. And part of that is probably involved in the decision making process that often undergird good business practices.

So for instance, by sometimes not having all the answers, by going to the team of subordinates, perhaps even, these, in terms of their position, they’re subordinates, they may not be intellectually subordinate or anything such as that, but in terms of their position, subordinates and the structure of the company, for example, admitting you don’t have all the answers, giving them a voice and that seems to, not only, often produce decisions that are good decisions but it actually makes people feel much more committed to the project or to the company, whatever it might be. Simply because they’ve had input. Interestingly enough and I wish I knew his name, I don’t have it with me, nor off the top of my head, but the director of HR at Google says that the number one human trait that they’re looking for is humility.


In hiring, yeah. Hiring at mid level management and up.

Well, Google, don’t be evil. [laughing]

Right, that’s their slogan.

That’s right.

Be humble, don’t be evil. [laughing]