A Hull of a Leader


Do you think humility is a powerful leadership trait?

Click for Bobby Hull video

I know many people would say “no”.

Leaders need to be bold, strong, assertive, decisive, confident, wise, determined, etc.  “Humble” probably wouldn’t fit the most frequent responses to a Family Feud survey question.  “Top 5 responses to ‘What are the most important traits of a leader?’  Survey says…”

Not likely “humility”.

In this age of social media and reality TV shows where it seems that countless numbers of people are attempting to stand out and tell the world how special they are, humility is not often demonstrated, lauded nor sought after.

In a hyper-competitive world where career advancement can rest on your ability to promote yourself to your superiors and convince them of your greatness, humility is not often promotable.

Perhaps we need to define humility.  Humility is having a modest opinion of your own importance.  Not thinking too much of yourself.

I had the privilege and pleasure, during my tenure in marketing in the NHL, to spend time with Bobby Hull.  During the 60’s and 70’s Bobby Hull was one of the greatest hockey players in the NHL, and subsequently the WHA, and is considered the greatest left winger to ever play the game.  He was the first player to sign a million dollar contract – an absurd amount of money at the time.  He played for the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets.  His statue still stands at the front of the United Center in Chicago.

One night when out for dinner with Bobby he recited this poem:

There is No Indispensable Man (by Saxon White Kessinger)

Sometime when you’re feeling important; Sometime when your ego ‘s in bloom;
Sometime when you take it for granted, You’re the best qualified in the room:
Sometime when you feel that your going, Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions, And see how they humble your soul.

Take a bucket and fill it with water, Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining, Is a measure of how much you’ll be missed.
You can splash all you wish when you enter, You may stir up the water galore,
But stop, and you’ll find that in no time, It looks quite the same as before.

The moral of this quaint example, Is to do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember, There’s no indispensable man.

Here was one of the greatest players to every play the game of hockey telling me that no one is indispensable.  That’s humility.  He did not have an overinflated opinion of himself and that made him much easier to relate to.

I believe that humility is one of the greatest qualities a leader can possess.  Are we not drawn to great people who are humble? When people of power and influence indicate genuine gratitude to others who have helped them, or share weaknesses that we can all associate with, are we not drawn to them even more?  When struggle or failure is not covered up, but freely admitted as a critical aspect of the journey to someone’s triumph and greatness – are we not ingratiated to them all the more?

Humility is also a recognition that you do not have all the answers.  A humble person recognizes that there is more they don’t know than they know, and are, therefore, teachable and able to learn even more.  Humble leaders recognize the contribution of others and express genuine gratitude to those in their care.

Humility is not equivalent to weakness and timidity.  No, it is a true estimate of who we are, and more importantly perhaps, who we are not.

Humility is a critical trait of a wholehearted leader.

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Leading and Living on Purpose.