Is meekness a desirable quality in a leader? I’m trying to wrap my brain around that question, and the hard part is defining what meekness is and what it is not.
This question is void of meaning unless you recognize leadership as an influence relationship. Leadership arises from the dynamic interaction of two or more people using their available sources of power (e.g. referent, expert, position, reward, coercive) to affect purpose-driven, real changes.
Borrowing from John Dickson’s thoughts on humility, I’m going to define meekness as a response to power directed at you by another that considers the good of others before yourself. The meek leader first absorbs as much of the power directed at him or her as possible, dissipates whatever will not benefit the group, and then responds with purposeful foresight. Meek leaders are systems thinkers – they carefully consider the “big picture” of all their actions and reactions.
Meekness is not weakness. Meekness emanates from a position of power as an intentional response to produce a positive affect in others. Over time the bold, counterintuitive nature of meekness fundamentally redefines the interpersonal interaction of those in close relationship.
Fearlessness is the paradox of meekness. Meek leaders never cower from the responsibility of right response.
Meekness is not humility. Dickson sees humility as the active use of power and influence for the good of others. Humility is something that I initiate and direct toward you; meekness is my response to your initiatives directed at me. Meekness and humility are full siblings, and sometimes rivals. Humility should mature faster than meekness simply because most of us will find more opportunities to practice humility; however, the development of meekness will always constrain our ability to lead with humility.
Like all virtuous leadership characteristics, meekness is a learned discipline. We are all born unique, but not meek. Strong meekness, like wisdom, is rare and remarkable. Strong meekness is very prudent.
Is meekness a desirable quality in a leader? I think so. What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
About the Author: Bret L. Simmons
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