Leading When Following

Likewise, be subject to the presbyters. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another. – 1 Peter 5:5

While I have no doubt that many of us have received similar advice multiple times in our careers, the question is do we live it? Do our actions and words as leaders reflect subjugation to our superiors and humility in our interactions?

Now as free people, we are not fond of subjecting or subordinating ourselves to any person. However, we do it daily if we belong to an organization (any successful organization, that is). Regardless of our titles, we subject ourselves to our superiors by placing their vision and the organization’s mission before our own ambitions; a core characteristic of humility. And a humble leader recognizes the mutual benefit in doing so, thereby communicating his desire to contribute to the growth of the organization. Just think back to how subordinate we sounded in our job interviews when we likely asked something along the lines of, “What current initiatives is the company pursuing, and how can my team contribute?”

Is your team’s focus still on achieving the company’s initiatives? If you have recently found yourself concerned with the success of your team only, then it may be time do a little course correction. For while it is easy to exercise humility in our dealings with superiors, it is more challenging to do so with our counterparts as we engage in struggles over the same limited time and resources. Struggles which all too often result in siloing and finger-pointing; actions that serve no other purpose than to divide and impede progress, shifting our teams’ focus from the common goal. Again, this is where our actions must be humble and mutually beneficial to both upstream and downstream teams. Our interactions must be respectful and our demands must be supportive: “I’ll do X, so that your team can do Y, allowing my team to do Z.”

When we demonstrate subjugation and exercise humility, we are leading. Leading by example. And it is amazing just how effective that example can be for our subordinates. As they observe how we interact with others and how we present ourselves as leaders, they learn the standards that we expect in their interactions. Once this is accomplished at each level, then we will have an organization that is working together as a single entity toward a common goal.


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