Humility and Team Effectiveness

One of the character qualities of the members of an effective team is humility. There is no room for big egos on effective teams.

T. J. Addington in his book, Deep Influence, describes the core of humility as understanding our own strengths and acknowledging them as gifts from God, coupled with our deep need for others to compensate for our weaknesses. He says humble individuals are deeply aware of their strengths. Genuine humility recognizes those strengths as well as the source and purpose of the strengths. Humility is not a denial of our abilities, but a recognition that those abilities are a trust and that we need one another.

Addington says humble leaders are far more likely to build healthy teams than those who crave the spotlight because they understand their need for others, are willing to share the credit, and love to empower people.

One way leaders can identify their strengths and how they can blend with others on their team is to take the Leading From Your Strengths profile. The profile results show the individual’s strengths in the areas of problem solving, processing information, managing change, and facing risk.

Addington suggests five ways leaders can cultivate and practice humility. 1) Remember that your leadership is not about you:  each of us who leads plays a stewardship role. 2) Surround yourself with competent people who will tell you the truth and will freely sharje their points of view.  Humble and healthy leaders want and solicit honest feedback so they can lead well. 3) Listen more than you talk. Listening carefully to others is both a posture and a builder of humility. 4) Ask a lot of questions of a lot of people. A test of humility is how often a leader admits that he or she doesn’t have the answer to an issue. 5) Serve those who serve you. We will only be as good as the teams we lead, so helping them live up to their potential is foundational to our leadership. How well I serve those I lead is a barometer of a heart of humility.

Ken Blanchard in his book, Lead like Jesus, calls Jesus the greatest leadership role model of all time. He sets the standard and model for humility. Philippians 2:5-8 says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death  – even death on a cross!”

The concept of servant leadership has been trending in the U. S. for several decades. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, businesses endorsing servant leadership are, in fact, more successful than those driven by traditional leadership models that promote professional success, hierarchy, or profit alone.

Jim Collins in his well known book, Good to Great, found that organizations who transitioned from good to great had leaders who embodied a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. They are ambitious but ambitious first and foremost for the organization, not themselves. Collins uses the analogy of the window and the mirror to describe the humility of the effective leader.  He says the level 5 leader looks out the window to attribute success to factors other than themselves.  When things go poorly, however, they look in the mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility.

The foundation of effective ministry teams is humility. Team members build on the strengths of one another for the common good. For more information on building effective teams, visit

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