Want to lead? Be humble.

ethos leaders be humble

Yesterday I was talking with a friend and future WhatComesNext.Live guest when I mused on “what if our political leaders actually admitted when they are wrong, or even when our countries are not doing as wonderfully as they keep saying?”

At the moment, the UK and US government, by any measures, have made mistake after mistake in handling the pandemic. Yes, it is truly impossible to “get it right” all the time, but they simply seem unable to apologise.

Imagine, then, the power of being humble and what that opens up?

  • First, admit your mistakes to create space to move on. For more depth, I wrote about this years ago in “I was wrong“.
  • Second, for national leaders, come clean, admit you are not the greatest country in the world (nor, using the current example of Covid-19), that you are “world-leading”).

Do both of these things and you have the chance to bring people with you. We want leaders we believe in, we trust. Such leaders are humble and also confident in leading towards the future together.

To illustrate, one of my favourite speeches written by Aaron Sorkin, from the opening scene of the pilot episode of “The Newsroom”, in which the main character answers the trite question “Why is America the greatest country in the world?”, starting out by saying “It’s not…”.

Oh, and for students of rhetoric, he uses, one after the other, the key rhetorical tools ethos, logos and pathos. (for more on those, read this piece by Farnam Street).


Also published on Medium.