Humility, according to leadership expert Jim Collins is one of the key characteristics of Level 5 leaders. Collins defines Level 5 leaders as those who lead not just good organisations, but great ones – ie. organisations that consistently outshine others. That humility is a mark of the very top leaders amazes some, but read his research (in Good to Great) and you’ll see and be convinced. But it’s not a surprise to followers of Jesus because Christ couldn’t have been clearer when he said ‘whoever wants to become great must become a servant’ (Matthew 20:26).
So what is it to be humble? The words often attributed to CS Lewis are a helpful start: ‘Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.’ But what does that mean in practice? It simply means putting God and others first. It doesn’t mean we neglect ourself or our loved ones. It doesn’t mean we become a doormat. It doesn’t mean we never question or challenge. It doesn’t mean we don’t take good rest or can’t enjoy some of the good things of life. But it does mean that we dislodge ourself from the centre. So it’s no longer about me. It’s about Him. And others. That’s at the heart of what it is to be humble.
How do we become humble? It begins by really grasping who Christ is and who we are. These are issues to do with identity. Jesus asked ‘who do you say I am?’ (Mark 8:29) – because he wanted people to know that he is God-with-us, the friend of sinners and Saviour of the world. Knowing who he is changes who we are. Living in relationship with Jesus Christ radically reshapes our identity. We know that we’re wonderfully made, totally forgiven and Spirit-filled. Knowing that our identity is dependent on Christ keeps us thankful, prayerful and humble. That’s why Kris Vallotton is right when he says ‘true humility is a choice, but the fact is that the best way to choose humility is to choose to believe what God says about you.’
Do you know what God says about you? Do you know how deeply he loves you? How passionately he likes you? How strongly he protects you? How strategically he has plans for you? You can hold your head up high. Because of Jesus Christ.
Realising that it’s all because of Jesus Christ stops us becoming arrogant and keep us humble. That is a great place to be. That’s why it’s great to be humble. And humble to be great.