10 Attributes of a Humble Leader

Closeup portrait, handsome, modest, young smiling man putting hands out, thank you for the compliment, but i'm not that good, isolated white background. Positive human emotion facial expression

Almost a decade ago I recruited a mentor. He was more than 20 years older than me, had been widely successful, and was extremely respected in our community. I admired his business success, his family life, and his standing in the community — but I didn’t ask him to mentor me in any of these areas.

I wanted him to mentor me because of the humility I observed in his life.

If you didn’t know he was successful — you would have never known it from him.

Humility is a desired, but often neglected characteristic of good, servant leadership. It seems in the day of platform-building and social media the more we promote ourselves online, the more the characteristic of humility is being forgotten and certainly is less celebrated. (As one who has an online presence, I consistently sense God reminding me that I’ve been on the bottom and I can return there.)

Pride is a struggle for many leaders (author included), but we must strive to bring humility to our leadership roles.

What is humility in leadership? What are some characteristics of a humble leader?

Of course, the real example of humility is Jesus. And, as I already knew, He was the mentor of my earthly mentor. Spending time with this mentor I learned a few things I am still striving to live. I haven’t mastered them, but I have better targets. 

Here are 10 attributes of a humble leader:

Dangerous Trust

Humility always demands a certain level of trust. Obviously, for a believer, it begins with a trust in God. But, a humble leader is willing to take a risk on others also, trusting them with the sacredness of the vision, even at the chance they may be disappointed with the outcome.

Sincere investment

Humble leaders know the vision is bigger and will last longer than they will. Wow! That’s a hard reality, isn’t it? But, knowing this humble leaders willingly invest in others, raising up and maturing new leaders.

Gentle, but strong

One can’t be a leader and be weak. The two — weakness and leadership — don’t go together. Every position of leadership will provide a challenge to the leader, but humble leaders have learned the balance between being gentle and remaining strong. (Think Jesus!)

Readily admits mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. In fact, we often learn more through failure than through success. The humble leader is quick to admit when he or she has done wrong and deals with the fault-out without casting blame or making excuses. And, they seek forgiveness when the mistakes they make impact others.

Forgives easily

Leadership is filled with disappointment; often at the expense of other’s mistakes. A humble leader forgives easily, remembering how many times he or she has been forgiven.

Quickly diverts attention

We all like to be recognized for accomplishments, but a humble leader is quick to divert attention to others, sharing the limelight for successes with those, who many times, may have even had more to do with the success than the leader did. They celebrate the success of others louder than personal success

Remains thankful

A humble leader is appreciative of the input of others into his or her leadership. So much so, that a humble leader naturally praises the actions of others far more than the time spent patting themselves on the back for personal accomplishments. Humble leaders recognize that all good gifts come from above.

Recognizes limitations

No one can do everything. A humble has the ability to say, “I can’t do that or I’m not the one who should“.

Shares authority

Humble leaders don’t take all the key assignments for themselves, but gives out prime responsibility and authority to people he or she is leading.

Invites feedback

A humble leader wants to learn from his or her mistakes and wants to continually see improvement. Humble leaders initiate other’s suggestions and feedback, not waiting until complaints come, but personally asking for the input.

Humility is not putting yourself down as a leader. It’s ultimately recognizing who you are in view of Christ and others. The danger in not being a humble leader or considering ourselves better than others, is that one day we may be “humbled”. Many of us learn humility the hard way.

What would you add to my list?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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33 thoughts on “10 Attributes of a Humble Leader

  1. Thanks to all of, you put me to think on so many things, but basically, why am I a leader?
    Am I a humble leader, thanks for the perspective of each one that makes me see the call of Jesus in my leadership, and as well the mentoring of the elders of my church to show us the importance of been a good leader.

  2. Hi Ron

    “Humble Leader” Wow! Me thinks that’s impossible. Especially in “Today’s Religious System.”

    In my experience – Most so-called Christian leaders today “Trust” John Maxwell. And his quote…
    “Everything rises and falls with leadership” – BUT – I do NOT see that principle in the Bible.

    That Maxwell quote makes so-called leaders think – “They are important.” Just the opposite of “Humble.”

    “Humble Leader” has to be confusing for those who tell others they’re Leaders in “The Body of Christ.” That quote causes so-called leaders to, Focus on self. Improve self. Have an excessive interest in self. But – That is the opposite of “Humble” = Having a low estimate of ones importance. Selfless.

    And – In the Bible – John the Baptist said – “He” must increase, but “I” must decrease. (Humble)
    Paul said – “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; *yet not I,* but Christ liveth in me.”

    And Jesus said – “I will build MY Church.” “I will add to MY Church.”
    Seems to me, in the Bible, Jesus gets the preeminence, and ALL the glory.
    Everything rises and falls with “Jesus.” NOT with mere fallible humans who think they are leaders.

    —————–

    ***Humble
    Dictionary – having a modest or low estimate of one's own importance.

    Thesauras – selfless, lowly, meek, unassuming, respectful, submissive, diffident, self-effacing,
    unassertive, unpresuming, modest, subdued, chastened.

    —————

    ***Leader
    Dictionary – the person who leads or commands a group.

    Thesauras – chief, head, principal, commander, captain; superior, headman, director, overseer,
    master, president, premier, governor; ruler, monarch, king, queen, sovereign, emperor, number one.

    —————

    ***Narcissistic
    Dictionary – having an excessive interest in oneself, in ones own importance.

    Thesauras – self-admiring, self-absorbed, self-obsessed, self-centered, self-regarding…

    ————–

    Maybe this is why Jesus, in Mat 23:10 NASB, taught His Disciples NOT to be called “Leader”
    For you have “ONE” Leader – Christ.

    So His Disciples would NOT think of “Self” as important…
    They would remain “Servants,” And they would have a shot at remaining “Humble.”

    Haven't you ever wondered – Why – NOT one of His Disciples – called them self "Leader?"

    If you ask someone – Are you a “Humble Leader?” And they answer…

    Yes – I’m a “Humble Leader.” – Are they?

  3. — Seeks to walk by the Spirit because they recognize that nothing they do will have any lasting impact unless they abide in Christ (Jn 15:5).
    — Regularly meditating on the meaning of the cross and Jesus' work there promotes humility

  4. I wonder how to be humble when I work with ppl who are some where between devil-worshippers and antagonist agnostics and fallen away Catholics and prosperity gospel-believers? There is a total lack of trust in the workplace from my perspective because some of my co-workers lie and cheat and steal and there is no accountability. I know because I have tried to address some things with management and there has been either a negative blow back on me or their behavior is being ignored. So they come away feeling even more empowered to keep behaving in more and more unethical ways. How am I to be humble and not be a door mat in the face of this work place?

    • I don't think being humble keeps anyone from speaking truth. Jesus came full of grace and truth. Truth doesn't make you arrogant if it's shared in grace and love.

    • Hey Chris, I'm with you on that. I always like to point out that it's easier to write this stuff than to live it!Thanks!

  5. I have never considered myself a humble leader. I am a goal oriented person, I tend to spend more time trying to accomplish what I set out to do, than trying to determine the type of leader I am. Maybe I need to slow down and pay more attention, I might be surprised at what I find!

  6. Thanks ! That was really good! This was convicting for me. Sometimes I am too “chatty” and I don’t give others a chance to talk. I need to change that, because I realize I am not being a “humble” leader if I have to “dominate” the conversation. Just because God made me "wordy" isn't a good excuse for not being putting others above myself. hmmmmmmmmm!!!!!

    I would add this too: A humble leader puts “unity” of all, above all and never creates a conditional loop that leaves others feeling invisible and isolated, on the outside feeling not good enough as they look in.

    Twitter: kmac4him

  7. Understanding humbleness has been a struggle of mine, and this post really helps. It's not that I'm not humble, but I just struggle to understand how to be confident and humble at the same time. Like you, "I’ve been on the bottom and I can return there," and I am constantly aware of this.
    Twitter: KariScare

    • I can understand that Kari, I struggle with keeping my confidence and humility in balance too. Sometimes it takes me talking a very long look at the Cross, at a very tenacious, powerful, confident Jesus, whose most important action was done in humility. It was the meekness of the cross, the power under control of Jesus Christ that saved me. Please Jesus burn Your Caricature of humility upon my heart that I might lead with it and not out of my human condition. AWE-GOD!
      Twitter: kmac4him

  8. — Assertive but not arrogant
    — Creates intense environment that requires people's best thinking & work (rather than creating tense environment that suppresses people's thinking & capability)
    — Walks the talk and does what he/she says
    — Values and loves people ; and uses money (but not the vice versa)
    — Appreciates and cherishes diversity