Leadership and humility


This is a story from a British Army Officer which highlights the need for humility and the power of mentoring/coaching in leadership. 

“I took over my organisation as the single figurehead responsible for everything and owning all risks. I had read the books, knew the doctrine, had the background knowledge and experience, in my mind I couldn’t do it badly. I knew ‘exactly’ what was needed to make the organisation ‘great’(er) than it already was. But in my rush to make great improvements I failed to empower my immediate subordinates, involve them in our journey, get their buy-in. I hid from the ‘tough’ interviews with people who I knew would work against me as I thought all I needed was my ideas and the support of the majority. in short - I failed at the first hurdle. Everything worked, output came up, systems operated more effectively but people disliked the climate and could feel the tension. the fact that people did not enjoy their work more was my failure, I knew it and for a few weeks felt I should resign. I hated myself, I asked my superiors if they wanted me gone as I owned up to them, I asked my friends and family for their thoughts. What did I do? I brought in the immediate subordinate team and apologised, I ate humble pie and asked for their help. I stood in front of the entire organisation and said I was wrong. I admitted my mistakes. I lived my own mantra to create a learning environment; and I put my shoulder to improving, daily and learning. I fell back on my personal resilience. I showed people in my organisation it is ok to fail. I asked for their support and they gave it. They worked harder. I thought I could be a great leader instantly. I thought I wanted to be one. But I learned far more from failing and I hope, lessons that will stay with me in the future. I always say that you never learn from success, it just reinforces positive coincidences. I learned humility, teamwork and a reminder to get he basics right. I found a couple of mentors who help me think issues through and conduct valuable reflective practice. I like to think I am better now; I am certainly more resilient and I am very content to stand in front and say I was wrong” 


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