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Humble leadership advances team ahead of ‘self’

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Jacob P.E. Dunbar
  • AFSOC Installations and Mission Support
There are instances in life that demand we subdue our pride to ensure the overall advancement of the team or institution. These situations require humble leadership.

Harnessing impulses and reactions will require much restraint, strength and discipline to pull it off, but doing so is important.

Airmen demonstrate humble leadership in many ways, but here are four examples:

- Airmen have to do something you don't like or feel is degrading. This takes a lot of heart. Although your inclination is telling you “don't,” you have to find all the reasons to “do.” As I tell Airmen who work for me: “It is not always about what we like to do, but it is about what needs to be done. Sometimes we just have to suck it up and go accomplish the task. In the time you take complaining and figuring out how not to do the job, you could already be done."

- Focus on the team’s goals and purpose when working for someone who gets on your nerves or you think is incompetent. Though you can't help to notice the individual's flaws, you must keep your eyes on bigger things. Helping such a person will be hard especially when they are stubborn, but you can't give up. If they fail, the entire team could fail. To fill the gap of incompetence and lack of credibility everyone else has to pick up their game. The ramifications of team failure are greater than your individual desires. Yes, the person's behavior and skills may not be up to par, but you need to get them there. When there is an obvious failure in leadership, the entire team has to work harder to fill the void and keep progressing.

- Remain professional when someone is disrespectful. The first thought could be to retaliate, but often that makes the situation worse. Keep advancing, because every time you get sidetracked by petty matters, you lose focus and stop the momentum. By treating people professionally you set an example. It often reduces tension and incites them to change their approach. Instead of continuing bad behavior, they choose to copy what you do.

- Compromise personal ideas for the good of the team. Most of us have deep-rooted views of how work should be done and how people should act in various situations. Your perspectives can set back the team, if you allow it. Instead of moving along, you get hung up on verbiage. How you see things through your lenses can be drastically different from others, but that does not mean any of the ideas are bad. It is more about what is best for the team. Even though you think your thoughts are more profound and beneficial than others, it does not matter, a decision was made by the team, and you must be humble and loyal enough to put the institution first rather than your feelings.

Humble leadership is tough for some folks. It requires a considerable amount of self-discipline to subordinate your pride, desires and views. Each individual has the choice to check out or stay in the game. Remaining says a lot about a person. It does not make you weak. It takes more strength to keep leading than to quit. Remember, you are leading, and people are following. If you give up because you are stubborn and selfish, then everyone else will be doing the same thing.

People learn from us. The next time you ask for their support and they don't like your ideas, don’t be surprised if they give you a dose of your own medicine and choose to quit, too.

Humble leadership is not about you and me, it is about advancing the team even if you have to make some concessions.