David Brooks on the "boardroom lion" versus the "humble hound"

Charlotte Hays | Posted on 04/12/10

Even if New York Times columnist David Brooks had not cited In Character, I would be recommending that you read his excellent and counterintuitive column on humility and business leadership. 

We rarely think of humility as a quality that contributes to effectiveness in the corporate arena. Perhaps we should. Brooks compares two kinds of business leaders: the "boardroom lions," and the "humble hounds." 

Although Brooks never uses the term servant leader, he clearly knows about this movement towards a new kind of leadership. The humble hound sounds a lot like the servant leader. As Brooks notes, the humble hound is aware not only of strengths but of weaknesses. The humble leader knows that "every move is a partial failure, to be corrected by the next one." Brooks argues that the reflective leader often outperforms the brash, over-confident risk-taker.

I urge you to read the entire column. But I do want to note that Brooks gave as an example of productive cooperation the stagehands in Peter J. Marks's piece in the last issue of In Character:  

In the journal In Character, the Washington Post theater critic Peter J. Marks has an essay on the ethos of the stagehands who work behind the scenes. Being out when the applause is ringing doesn't feel important to them. The important things are the communal work, the contribution to the whole production and the esprit de corps. The humble hound is a stagehand who happens to give more public presentations than most.

If this leadership style were more widely admired, the country could have spared itself a ton of grief.



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