Humility in Leadership: The MIT Principle

Leadership-1

I just sat and listened. Bob, the director, talks about how the universities wanted to give back to the society. In fact, this prestigious university opened its doors to young engineering students who were a part of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Faculty and staff were all communicating that the impossible was possible. The place was the highly regarded Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory. Everyone goes by their first names, doctorate or not. Egos are checked at the door (well everyone is brilliant).

One MIT staff member explains this reality, “Everyone here is smart.” If someone comes in cocky, there is someone who is smarter than him in another area. That keeps people ‘in check’. I was a little stunned. I had imagined an MIT culture where innovative mavericks were left to their own devices independent of others to produce incredible solutions for society. Yet, sharing, service, and working together appeared to carry a lot of weigh on campus.

Many people feel that leadership is about being the brightest and sharpest ‘cat on the block.’ At times, I have worked with some of the most brilliant people in the world, having federal oversight of two national laboratories in my career. This article examines the concepts of humility in today’s leaders. Additionally, the MIT Principle is developed so that all leaders understand that even high achievers need a sense of humility to work in high performing organization.

mit-logo

Even brilliant students at MIT need humility in order to be successful on campus. The MIT Principle, as I dubbed, can be an important lesson to learn. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a special place filled with innovators and overachievers. MIT is a private institution which was founded in 1861.1 In 2016, MIT was ranked 7th best university in the nation in the 2016 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities.

The school’s mascot is a beaver, which MIT chose because of its “remarkable engineering and mechanical skill and its habits of industry.” High achievers from across the nation flock to MIT to gain great tutorage in their disciplines and make their market on society with their ‘geniusness.’ MIT boasts in highly regarded programs in engineering, management, and sciences. Additionally, research expenditures generally exceed $650 million each year. 2

In MIT culture, students are expected to be leaders in their respective fields and problem solvers with new novel ideas. Yet, collaboration is a high principle at MIT. In fact, sharing and service are part of this culture. Students, faculty, and support institutions are expected to work together for a common good. Given this scenario, each student must find a valuable contribution that he/she can make to the student project, teams, and industry collaborations. Even the most brilliant individual at MIT must apply some humility in being successful because they must submit to the good of the organization instead of their own selfish ambitions. The MIT Principle states that in order to achieve overall success for the organization or team, individuals at some point will have to sacrifice their own personal goals for the organization.

Dr. Green’s Visit to MIT (Animoto video) – Click Here

Humility is a character trait that will serve leaders well in a knowledge-based economy. Humility can be defined as ‘a modest or low view of one’s own importance.’ When one thinks about humility, one of the first adjectives that come to mind is humble or humbleness. Some ideas come to mind about a humble individual; not proud or arrogant. If you are a sport fan, you have probably seen star athletes that ‘show boat’ and bring attention to themselves that they are great.

Certainly, some of the greatest like Muhammad Ali used this attitude to build his own confidence. Ali noted, “At home I am a nice guy; but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.” Humility often requires a person to defer or submit to other people.

Jonathan Edwards, a Puritan theologian in the 18th century, examined the matter of humility in human existence; he defined a humble man as one who is sensitive to his natural distance from God.3 Thus, man has a dependency on God that shows humans their insufficiency of their own wisdom and power. Edwards explained: “Some persons are always ready to level those above them down to themselves, while they are never willing to level those below them up to their own position. But he that is under the influence of true humility will avoid both these extremes.

followers-wanted

On the one hand, he will be willing that all should rise just so far as their diligence and worth of character entitled to them; and on the other hand, he will be willing that his superiors should be known and acknowledged in their place, and have rendered to them all the honors that are due to them.” Leaders are no exception. Leadership guru, John Maxwell notes, “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” The following are ways that leaders can cultivate a humble spirit:

* Have a faith that supersedes your wisdom.
* Learn lessons from each defeat, dejection, and heartache in which you have no control and are forced to humility.
* Respect others regardless of their position and title in your organization.
* Seek wise counsel from folks you trust and who have an interest in your success.
* Learn how to listen to others.

As organizations research ways to be more effective and productive, leaders explore how they can navigate uncertainty. Leaders can start by applying some humility in the manner that they relate to their employees, managers, and other stakeholders. Like MIT, individuals often need to control their own personal ambitions in light of the organization. If organizations are willing and capable to infuse their organizations with a good sense of humility, they will be infusing their organizations with a healthy trait that will serve them well in the current climate of uncertainty. I pray that it’s not too late for them!

© 2016 by Daryl D. Green

Sources

“Massachusetts Institute of Technology” by Colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com

“Jonathan Edwards” by Theopedia.com

 

Being An Authentic Leader

man-fingers-crossed

When I was sitting in my Sunday lecture, my teacher brought home what it meant to be hypocritical when discussing Jesus’ interaction with the leaders of his time, The Pharisees. Jesus openly criticized their actions to his followers in Matthew 23:2: “Therefore, whatever they [Pharisees] tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do their works. For they speak, but do nothing.They fasten heavy loads that are hard to carry and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with their finger.”

Sadly, many workers face some less than genuine managers that fail to inspire them for greater performance.  In this blog discussion, we will explore the the concept of authentic leadership in today’s society.

Competition is fierce across the globe. Managers are often forced to act genuine with their employees because financial circumstances force them to behave in ways that are in the best interest of shareholders and investors, not their employees.  Yet, organizations need talented and inspired employees who go beyond the basic requirements to excellence.  Yet, employees are reluctant to give this type of performance to self-serving leaders who do not care about them.

Forbes contributing writer Victor Lipman, in his article “The Foundational Importance of Trust in Management,” notes the alarming levels of distrust among workers.  According to a Gallup survey, 70% of workers are disengaged in the organization.[1]  Lipman found several contributing factors to this problem, which were: disingenuous communication, lack of modeling behavior, and financial pressure. Lipman explains, “As a manager myself, I recognized it was critical for my employees to trust me if I expected them to be fully productive on my watch.”  With trust on the downturn with numerous layoffs and higher unemployment, managers must be sincere and genuine with their workforce if they want a different type of performance.

CRITICAL VIDEO

Organizations must foster authentic leadership in today’s environment. Leadership denotes the ability to influence others.  When the adjective of authentic is modified on the word, something special emerges.  The adjective authentic conveys “something that is real or genuine and not counterfeit.”  In the case of the Pharisees, they were influencers of their followers.  However, the reality of the matter was that their type of leadership was not genuine or sincere. Authentic leadership defines the leader’s ability to have honest relationships with followers through transparent relationships.  In this mode, the leader may leave himself/herself vulnerable to others.

Bill George, author of Authentic Leadership, describes authentic leadership as ‘a leadership style that is consistent with a leader’s personality and core values, and that is honest, ethical and practical.’[2]  Dr. Richard Daft, author of Management, further outlines the following key characteristics of authentic leadership: (a) Authentic leaders pursue their purpose with passion; (b) Authentic leaders practice solid values; (c) Authentic leaders lead with their hearts as well as their heads; (d) Authentic leaders establish connected relationships; and Authentic leaders demonstrate self-discipline.[3]  With these traits, authentic leadership would be synonymous with an unselfish leadership approach.

In closing, today’s workers want managers who can inspire them for higher performance. However, workers are not looking for managers who are not genuine in their relationships with them. By utilizing authentic leadership in their organizations, managers will be better able to build these types of positive relationships with workers. Start today!

Please explain the concept of authentic leadership from your professional or personal experience.

 

© 2016 by Daryl D. Green

 

[1] “The Foundational importance of Trust in Management” by Victor Lipman

 

[2] Authentic Leadership by Bill George

[3] Management by Richard Daft

 

Grit in Effective Leadership

GRIT-mental-toughness1

As the U.S. presidential election goes into full swing following both major conventions, voters will be considering which candidate will serve best as the nation’s leader.  This decision is not an easy one, as both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have some of the worst favorability ratings in history.  Ideally, voters should be thinking about candidates’ character traits, but most will prioritize self-interest and vote based on their pocketbooks.  Media pundits will analyze every insignificant point as if it is…well, significant.  In the face of global terrorism and financial uncertainty, what character trait genuinely sets a successful leader apart?  Problems will arise.  Trouble will come, and leaders who possess intrinsic drive will have the highest chance of overcoming obstacles and external factors in their environment.  We will examines the nature of grit for leaders caught in today’s chaotic world.

Effective leaders have a special quality called “grit,” which refers to a drive to overcome all sorts of hurdles.  People define grit in various ways: according to Gostrengths.com, grit is “a personality trait possessed by individuals who demonstrate passion and perseverance toward a goal despite being confronted by significant obstacles and distractions.”  Along similar lines, blogger AJ Julian wrote an article on grit in education in which he shared an outstanding acronym: Guts, Resilience, Integrity, Tenacity.[1]

Continue reading

Living Purposefully – Special Tribute to Coach Pat Head Summitt

Coach Pat-1

Amidst turmoil across the world, there is still good among us. Living in Tennessee, I had the opportunity to witness the exemplary character of Coach Pat Head Summitt, former head coach of University of Tennessee Lady Vols. I would like to pay my own tribute to this special leader in our community. Most people affectionately called her ‘Coach Pat.’

Coach Summitt lived a life of purpose from a humble beginning.  Her success in life was incredible: Coach Summitt achieved 1,098 career wins, the most in NCAA basketball history. She won 8 NCCA championships – and the Lady Vols never missed an NCAA tournament under Coach Summitt.[1] In one NCAA tournament, Summitt posted a 112-23 record, achieving a Division I record with the 112 wins. Additionally, she won two Olympic medals: one as a coach and one as a player, alongside numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. [2] Continue reading

Fathers Are Critical in Today’s Families

fathers-day-2016

In 2012, Desmond Hatchett, a Knoxville resident, made a big impression in the news. At the time, the 33 year old man was requesting relieve from his child support payments. According to news sources, Hatchett had 30 children by 11 different women.  However, Hatchett struggled with his financial commitments with his children due to his low paying minimum wage job.  For many people across the nation, this story struck a moral cord. Continue reading

Mother’s Day:The Right Model for Today’s Generation

MOTHERS-diverse

Line of multi-ethnic mothers holding their babies

Here’s a tribute to all good mothers this month! I want to especially thank my mother, Annette Green Elias, and my wife, Estraletta Andrews Green, for being two godly women in my life.  [I want to share an excerpt from one of my 2012 columns.]

With the media bombards us with unrealistic expectations for mothers, it is any wonder that today’s mothers feel under huge pressures to be perfect. Stay-at-home mothers feel  guilt of not provides financially as it takes two people to make ends meet. Working mothers feel the guilt of attempting to balance a career and a family at the same time. Any person worth any salt would recognize that mothers are often the glue that holds families together.   Continue reading

Job Strategies for Professionals

depression-business-women

Are you fearful about your career future? Good people can’t find jobs. College graduates are losing Hope. Our world is filled with uncertainty. My co-author William Bailey and I wrote our latest book, Job Strategies for the 21st Century: How to Assist Today’s College Students during Economic Turbulence.  Through our research, we found that there is a huge disconnect between what organizations are looking for in potential employees, and what today’s job seeker are providing. I will share some of the key insights from our undertaking. Continue reading

Leading Change in a Global Environment

Change-agent

Global affairs are often unstable. This month, Japanese stock market falters again, capping its worst single-week performance since the global financial crisis in 2008. Japan is not alone in its underperforming markets. Yet, globalization has connected countries through various elements. Financial markets are not an exception. This article explores issues of change in a global environment and discusses the merits of change agents in today’s organizations. Continue reading