Effective leadership can’t be possible without a good dose of humility. All successful people have it. All effective leaders must have it.
I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.
Dwight D Eisenhower
You never know who you are gonna meet on the way down that you treated poorly on the way up.
People with Street Smarts
Eisenhower’s appointment as Supreme Allied Commander to lead the Allied invasion of German-occupied Europe in World War II was largely due to his great ability to get along with people. Ike needed to manage the immense and overpowering egos of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery and have them accept him as Supreme Commander. Ike’s sense of humility was the key to a personality that paved the way for his success.
Ike’s quote above applies to anyone who achieves success due to the efforts and sacrifices of others…and that means every successful manager of people. It is the subordinates that do the real work…to make the deadlines… and achieve the plan the boss put together. People will work long and hard for a variety of reasons but will usually balk at doing so for a boss that is arrogant…doesn’t appreciate their efforts…and generally doesn’t treat them well….in other words, someone without a sense of perspective regarding their own importance; a lack of humility..
Ulysses S Grant – our 16th President and the general that won the American Civil War for Lincoln – had an overriding sense of humility. And for good reason. Grant, West Point class of 1843, was forced to leave the Army in 1854 for allegations of drunkenness. He then failed at every effort after that – farming, bill collecting, selling firewood on the streets of St Louis. He finally became a clerk in his father’s leather goods store. When the Civil War broke out the North needed experienced officers. Grant re-joined the Union Army and quickly came into his own. Having failed to support his family in civilian life, he found great success leading men in battle. Why? To a great deal, how he treated people – friend and foe alike.
A general’s greatest accomplishment is the capture of an enemy army. Which is what Grant did in February, 1862, when his army captured the Confederate army defending Ft Donelson on the Tennessee River. Customarily such an event would call for a ceremony where the surrounding general would offer his sword and sidearm to the victor. When a subordinate asked Grant when and where the surrender ceremony would take place, Grant replied “There will be nothing of the kind. Why should we injure the spirit of brave men, who after all are our own countrymen and brothers?”.
Grant could have celebrated… could have gloated… but he didn’t. Just as one of the first things discussed with Robert E. Lee at Lee’s surrender at Appomattox was Grant asking if Lee’s men needed rations. Humility and thoughtfulness again.
Hu-mil-i-ty (noun) A modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.
Important for all to keep in mind as we go through life, dealing with people and facing adversity. And perhaps one of the greatest lessons each of us can teach others!
Recommended reading for more about Eisenhower & Grant:
Ulysses S. Grant – Soldier & President by Geofferey Perret – Random House Eisenhower – Soldier & President by Stephen Ambrose – Simon & Shuster
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