Humble leaders' obedience in prayer is not simply what they know they need to do; it's an expression of their deep need for God's help. (Pixabay/Ana_J)

I've had the privilege of meeting some well-known leaders—some who are occasionally arrogant, but many who are quite humble. Below are some of the characteristics I've found among the humble ones: 

  1. They give with few people knowing. I've known leaders who give sacrificially to help those in need, but the only persons who know about it are those who must know. Humble people aren't worried that others see what they do.
  2. They open doors for others. To be honest, I am where I am because of humble leaders who paved the way for me. They gave me opportunities to serve when they could have kept the opportunities for themselves.
  3. They evangelize. This one might surprise you, but I've seen this correlation. Some of the humblest people I know are also the greatest evangelists I know. Proud people, on the other hand, usually talk about themselves more than about Jesus.
  4. They are genuinely prayerful. Their obedience in this spiritual discipline is not simply what they know they need to do; it's an expression of their deep need for God's help.
  5. They shun titles. Sometimes they're in settings where it's appropriate for others to use the title (e.g., a seminary), but these leaders think little about that issue. You will not hear them gently—and sometimes not-so-gently—remind others that they are "Dr. _______." 
  6. They adore their families. Again, I'm simply reporting correlations I see among humble people. These folks love and prioritize their families, never allowing their own goals and aspirations to get in the way of their family.
  7. They listen well. Missing an email or a text while listening to somebody doesn't bother them. They don't see themselves as so important that they must always be looking at their phones.
  8. They admit failure, without excuse. Their admissions come with "I'm sorry" rather than "Let me explain ..." They are never so big that they won't apologize to even the lowliest person.
  9. They don't name-drop. The folks I'm thinking of as I write this post could indeed drop names. They just don't do it, even though they've spent time with other big-name leaders.
  10. They don't criticize others. Proud people readily criticize others, thus building up their own status (at least in their own minds). Humble leaders, however, don't waste their time tearing down other leaders.

I have a long way to go.

What characteristics have you seen in humble leaders?

Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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