In 2001, Jim Collins published the bestseller Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t. This book moved beyond the traditional readership of business literature as some of Jim’s findings were rather surprising and transformational. One such finding pertained to the type of leadership required to turn a good company into a great one. Traditional thought was that such leaders must, by definition, be high-profile with big personalities, those who make headlines and become celebrities. But Collins found that such celebrity leaders do not exhibit what he termed “Level 5 Leadership” behaviours. Level 5 leaders were those who combined extreme personal humility with intense personal will and they shunned the attention of celebrity. Instead of an internal focus, they channelled their ambition towards building a great company.
I find something incredibly beautiful and powerful in humility. Have you ever shook the hand of a huge, powerful man who you know could easily crush it like a rock crusher, yet he was a gentle and humble soul? You know that if the need ever arose, he could be one of David’s mighty men, but his power was contained and he never needed to flex his muscles or lift heavy objects to prove to people that he was strong. It appears that this concept of humility has diminished significantly in this age of self-promotion. While much of it is an act, this screaming of bravado seems to have taken precedence over humility.
I once heard a pastor preach on humility and learned that the Greek word for humility, tapeinos, was used negatively in ancient Greek culture. It meant to be conquered, to be crushed, to be humiliated. Interestingly, and not surprisingly, the word only gained a positive meaning after the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus had been conquered, crushed, humiliated, but he chose all those things. What Jesus endured was prophesied by Isaiah “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6). Jesus could have called down a legion of angels at anytime (Matthew 26:53) who could have crushed those who were humiliating him. And can you imagine how his omnipotent father felt watching his son endure this; yet he too resisted, showing restraint in the ultimate display of humility.
As a Christian Athlete, how are you doing in the area of humility? Have you bought into the world of self-promotion or are you leading a life of humility that honors God? Will you choose to be a leader who can influence those around you to move from good to great, not by flexing your muscles but by showing humble restraint? Ask God to help you develop the characteristic of humility in your life.
42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10: 42-45)