An Essence Of Great Leaders

by Patrick Liew on February 6, 2017

When I study great leaders of the world, they have one common denominator – a spirit of humility.

This finding is validated by Jim Collins in his best-selling book, From Good to Great. He found that leaders of visionary companies or what he termed as “Level 5 leaders” have the traits of humility and fierce resolve.

This principle may be intuitively hard to accept in a commercialised world where leaders seek every opportunity to promote themselves. They jostle and jockey for a moment of fame and to be in the limelight.

When the transient nature of fame blows away and the lights go off, they may just wonder why they do not have a positive relationship with others. They have not made a meaningful impact on them.

Humility is a way to break the barrier to the heart. It’s the virtue that can help you win hearts and minds and lead them to fulfill a purposeful calling.

The root word of humility is derived from the Latin word “humus” which means “ground” and “humilis” which means “lowly.”

Humility does not mean that others are better than you or you are better than them. It’s about freedom from unhealthy comparison with anybody.

In essence, humility is grounded in truth, love and wisdom. It does not operate
in an artificially-elevated position of of self-pride, over-confidence, and arrogance.

Humility does not function from a self-centred and self-serving position.

Instead, it seeks to be in a base position of putting others before yourself, and making others feel more important than yourself.

It’s a state of being detached from the ego and having the willingness to serve others.

Humility is not a weakness but a strength.

It takes strength to recognize that others can be better than you. There is more to be known than what has been known and to be open to learn from others and embrace new ideas, knowledge, and expertise.

It takes courage to believe that you can be wrong and to solicit for feedback and correction.

As a leader, you should learn how to overcome fear and take courage to relinquish power to a better person to lead a team. And if need be, to take on the role of a follower and be one of the team players.

Humility is not timidity but confidence. It takes a sense of security to accept weakness and to approach others others for counsel, advice and solution.

It takes confidence to create opportunities for others to play their parts, improve, and make their contributions.

It takes confidence to offer credit and recognition to others for an achievement even if you have contributed to it.

Humility is the first lesson before any other lesson. It ensures that you’re are not so full of yourself that you have no room for deeper insights, wisdom and achievement.

In fact, humility is a necessary ingredient to develop other virtues. The stronger the virtue, the more the essence of humility is needed to make the virtue more impactful and sustainable.

Humility acts as a protection against evil. Evil can never influence people who are at peace with themselves and have a heart of service.

Humility prevents you from falling down the slippery slope of self-pride and vain glory.

With a sense of humility, leaders can go farther and faster with their teams to serve a worthwhile cause.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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