I’m going to forgive you in advance because I know most of you are not aware that Bob Taylor died last week. I’m also going to forgive you for not knowing who Bob Taylor was.

Teams led by Robert Taylor pioneered or perfected many of the innovations we associate with modern computing: the computer mouse, the internet, the personal computer, the graphical user interface, icons, pop-up menus,
cut-and-paste techniques, overlapping windows, bitmap displays, easy-to-use word processing programs, and Ethernet networking technologies, among others.

You don’t know who Taylor was because Taylor was a great team leader. If innovation was a competitive team sport, Bob Taylor was the winningest coach ever. He infused it with passion and drama to inspire everyone who worked with him. Taylor did not think most innovations could be traced to a single individual. He liked to quote a Japanese proverb: “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

The wisdom of the crowd.

Our character focus this month is humility. Entrepreneur magazine listed “22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader,” and they left humility off the list. I find that surprising since so much has been written about the failures that can be traced to the arrogance of a leader.

Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues. Saint Augustine wrote, “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”

If I wish to be an effective leader, I need to ask myself some difficult questions:

What motivates me? Am I seeking attention and a personal win, or am I more concerned with the success of the team (and even individuals on the team)? Am I willing to let others have the spotlight? Philippians 2:3–4 says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (NLT).

How willing am I to support and promote the ideas and efforts of others? Remember one of Bob Taylor’s favorite sayings: “None of us is as smart as all of us.” We need the support and ideas from the team. If I don’t support others, I shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t support me. Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up” (NASB). We all fall sooner or later.

Do I care about progress and innovation, or do I care about recognition? Believing that I have created my success is a dangerous road to start down. It is the opposite of humility. In 1 Corinthians 4:7 we read, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (NASB). Basically, how can you claim credit for what you have, when everything you have was, at least in part, given to you by someone else?

Ultimately, everything we have—including our capabilities—was given to us by God. If anyone should get an award, it should be him.

Taylor realized that innovation was always a team effort. Individuals make significant contributions, but every single person is building on the work of others. Like a tug-of-war team, each person with a hand on the rope adds to the potential for success. The individual cannot win without the team, and the team cannot win without the individual.

If you search “dangers of success,” you will find several things often repeated: arrogance, failure to listen, thinking you’re the expert, leading by power and authority, and failure to receive feedback. Every one of these can be prevented with humility. On this subject, Harvard Business Review published an excellent article you might enjoy titled “Six Principles for Developing Humility as a Leader” by John Dame and Jeffrey Gedmin.

You are great leaders. You are serving teams that are doing great things. I pray for each of you (and myself) that we will remain humble and remember that our first duty is to serve the people for whom we are responsible. When we lead from humility, we honor the Lord in what we do.

That’s The Kimray Way.

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