There is a condition of heart that is defining the difference between success and failure in our current crises. Let me explore it with you.

You know that I deal with the “soft factors” of leadership in these Leading Thoughts. You have plenty of sources for the more technical things you need to know. It’s the soft factors I focus on here because I am convinced they make the difference between leadership greatness and leadership mediocrity. Let me show you what I mean.

I’m watching a matter of character, a condition of heart really, make all the difference today. This trait or characteristic is humility. You see, a good leader will do what must be done to get his team through a crisis no matter how much he has to step down from his lofty position to get it done. A proud leader will cling to position and privilege and, often, to his prior ways and never lower himself to assure success.

Here are some examples. I’m watching a very successful pastor of a large church do what must be done to lead his people in these uncertain times. He’s learned new skills. He’s doing double the number of “socially distanced” services he used to do. He’s reorganizing his staff and redeploying resources and putting himself on the street to help heal his community. He sees himself as a servant. There’s nothing this requires he will not do. Keep in mind this man has a massive church, is in his late sixties, and could easily be resting on his laurels. He isn’t. He is a man of humility and will do whatever is required to lead well in this season.

I’m watching another pastor who is quite consumed with his privilege. He gripes a lot. He is only willing to do what he’s always done. He doesn’t seem to have the flexibility in his soul to learn new skills, change his approach to ministry, roll up his sleeves and handle the muck of our times, or even to deploy more flexible staffers in his stead. Sadly, his church is shrinking. He’s marginalizing himself. We’ve all lost the great good he and his church could have done.

What’s the distinguishing factor? Humility.

Here’s more. I know a very famous writer who is taking smaller projects without his name on them to keep the bills paid. Bigger projects will come in time. His career has yet to reach its heights. Yet he’s humble enough to do what must be done in a tumultuous time.

I know a CEO who has taken a pay cut, who allows fearful workers to stay home, who always wears a mask, who has paid the bills for the members of his team who have Covid-19 and who has taken on projects for his company that aren’t the most impressive but which will help get the company on to better days—all while keeping everyone employed. Humility is winning the day.

In short, good leaders have to defy their egos, reduce their sense of privilege, keep their eye on what is best for all they lead, and do that best no matter how humbling, new, or challenging it is. This is what leads to success. This is what builds a legacy. This is what leads to prosperity and has workers saying in six months or a year that they would not want a job anywhere else.

You know what I’m going to ask now. Check yourself. Choose the path of humility. Make it possible for you and your firm to rise again to greatness by doing whatever is required. Be small in your own eyes now so that what you lead can be great in time.