The Grounded Leader: Harnessing Humility and Courage


"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less." – C.S. Lewis

To prepare our teams for the future, we need to start by admitting that we don't have all the answers. For some leaders, this might seem counter-intuitive. Why would someone follow me if I don’t know the answers? How can they trust me if I am not 100% confident in the plan? But the opposite is true.

I have been working with a CEO at an immuno-oncology therapeutics company. The company’s clinical development pipeline was presenting a big challenge. There were many potential directions to move forward, but the company was exhausting its funding options and had to place a bet on one indication. She felt pressure to decide on the correct path and didn’t want to make the wrong choice or disappoint the team. But, when she approached the challenge with humility and courage, she collaborated with the team to decide on the best option.

Taking ownership and being honest with your team is at the center of most leadership challenges. Your employees respect and believe in you when you take ownership of your decisions and stick to your word. It takes a lot of courage to be this way, but your impact will be powerful. When you stand up and face the truth instead of shifting blame or sweeping things under the rug, you are also modeling an example for others to show up this way. You also want the leaders on your team to own their mistakes and realize that it is okay to be wrong – what you do with that realization is essential.

One of the most well-known examples of authentic leadership is Bill George, Medtronic's former chairman and CEO. He wrote the book Authentic Leadership about his time leading Medtronic during a challenging period of its evolution. According to George, the five traits of an authentic leader are:

  • Pursuing their purpose with passion

  • Practicing solid values

  • Leading with their hearts as well as their heads

  • Establishing connected relationships

  • Demonstrating self-discipline

These are compelling traits that are the foundation of an effective leader. However, one thing that these traits all have in common is that they all require a high level of humility and courage. Embracing these qualities not only fortifies us against the tides of change but also inspires those we lead to join us in the journey toward authenticity and shared success. Leaders who stand firm with humility and brave in their convictions leave indelible marks on their teams and organizations. So, how will you ground yourself in humility to cultivate courage in your leadership today?


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