Sergio Garcia –

What is your “go-to move?” Sergio Garcia, pictured here, said in a article, “these are my simplest, go-to keys – they’re not complicated…” that he relies on when he’s under pressure from both internal and external forces.

With this in mind, let’s think about our “go-to move” for being effective as leaders (aka the boss, supervisor and/or team leader). There are really many “go-to moves” that can be utilized. In re-reading an article I wrote in late 2018, Being Thankful & “Ambitious Humility”, I was newly inspired to see the concept of “Humbition” as an effective “go-to move” for effective leadership and influence in our business world today.

Being Thankful & “Ambitious Humility

In the article above, I shared how, when many of us were assistants, “We all pointed out how the ‘old pro’ we worked for was not thoughtful enough, not appreciative enough of us, not _______ enough and that ‘when we got the chance,’ we would do it so much better.”

I asked in that article and now, as the current decade comes to a close and a new one begins, is a great time to ask:

Would the younger, idealist that you were, agree that you are leading/managing better today (than your old boss, than yourself last year)? Are you continuously improving?

The Setup

The idea of mastering “humble leadership” as a go-to move for all of us in 2020, I would remind us of this quote by Bill Taylor, from his article “If Humility Is So Important, Why Are Leaders So Arrogant?” (from the Harvard Business Review)

“Indeed, humility in the service of ambition is the most effective and sustainable mindset for leaders who aspire to do big things in a world filled with huge unknowns. Years ago, a group of HR professionals at IBM embraced a term to capture this mindset. The most effective leaders, they argued, exuded a sense of ‘humbition,’ which they defined as ‘one-part humility and one-part ambition.’”

If Humility Is So Important, Why Are Leaders So Arrogant?

Taylor goes even further, and since I can’t come close to improving on his wording, I will just let them speak to you (as they did to me). And, I really love this as it so applies to the difficult, emotional and political aspects of being a professional in the golf industry. He writes, “Humility can feel soft at a time when problems are hard; it can make leaders appear vulnerable when people are looking for answers and reassurances.” He continues, “Of course, that’s precisely its virtue: The most effective business leaders don’t pretend to have all the answers; the world is just too complicated for that. They understand that their job is to get the best ideas from the right people, whomever and wherever those people may be.”

Humbition would seem to the “go-to move” for all of us (whether we’re the leader, the executive manager or we’re just aspiring to be a leader). With this in mind, how does “Humbitious Leadership” really work?

The Practice

Dan Cable, the author of Alive at Work, shares several ways to be a successful “humbitious leader” and by extension, build a  humbition-rich team culture. One place he starts is by pointing out the outdated, top-down style of leadership. This is the very same style where command and control, KPIs and outcomes are the yardsticks a team is measured by (and summarily punished with, or because of).

He states, the key to any successful team leader is this: “…to help people feel purposeful, motivated, and energized so they can bring their best selves to work.” Servant Leadership is a mindset where the boss, leader or whatever title you apply approaches their role and their relationship with their team as:

  • Serving their employees first – both actual help and emotional support as needed
  • Demonstrate self-awareness and insight – showing a willingness to receive feedback, coaching and instruction
  • Actively seek and cultivate the contributions (ideas, innovations and questions) of the employee they serve
  • Actively engage and model both Simon Sinek concepts of Leaders Eat Last and #theinfinitegame – knowing that both concepts will bring the best results. Just a few simple applications of them would include:
    • I win when my team wins or when my team “fails forward” – my success is tied directly to the success of my team, they are not a “means to the end(s) I’m seeking.”
    • When my team is given freedom to innovate, experiment and create a better experience for our customer/member, they’ll feel more energized (not stifled) and the energy will energize our customers
    • I win when an individual on the team or the whole team gets better (better than yesterday, than last week, last month and so on)
    • I know that our team doesn’t have to be the best, because this is not a finite game, but instead infinite.
    • Arbitrary comparisons with our so-called competitors is wasted energy, we are competing with ourselves; I’m competing only with myself as a leader (eg. am I better at serving my team this year than last?)
    • #theinfinitegame – so as a team leader, I’m committed, energized and fulfilled by serving my team, my teammates when I’m able to humbly, lead and serve them to their “best self”

Is “Humbitious Leadership” going to require putting aside our self-esteem, our self-value?

No, it’s actually the opposite. A successful “humbitious leader” is actually more confident than the typical controlling leader. It’s because of their confidence, their complete understanding of their role and their attitude about leading that fuels their “servant leadership” approach. Based on their foundation, their infinite game mindset, a servant leader can allow (or let go of the control, the responsibility, etc.) and instead, increase the ownership, autonomy and freedom of those they lead (and supervise) to be able to know “how to think” and not be stuck in “what to think” alone.

Dan Cable makes the following suggestions for those wanting to make “humble leadership” work for them as a leader. Some of these were noted earlier in this article, but let’s spell them out more clearly below:

  • Ask how you can help employees do their own jobs better — then listen (deceptively simple)

Cable suggests a new “performance review” meeting model vs. the regular (or irregular) staff meeting that we typically see. He suggests a simple question: “How can I help you deliver ______________?” (eg. excellent service)

This question, when supported by servant leadership behaviors models the right attitude towards service for the employee. So, in turn, they will better serve the customer. (Oh, by the way, this question positively puts the employee on the spot? And, if you keep asking, encourages them to think differently about their job, their role or key activities.)

  • Create low-risk spaces for employees to think of new ideas

Similar to the concept above, encouraging time and space for employees to find a better way (even if it’s a best practice) will lead to some incredible outcomes, with some creating savings of funds or of time. Remember this fun thought: every great idea once started as a stupid idea. For real improvement, employees need to push against the boundaries of what they already know – what they already know works, or is approved of or is “time tested.”

  •  Be humble

Dan Cable sums it up here in a KISS method style. He writes, Leaders often do not see the true value of their charges, especially “lower-level” workers. But when leaders are humble, show respect, and ask how they can serve employees as they improve the organization, the outcomes can be outstanding. And perhaps even more important than better company results, servant leaders get to act like better human beings.” Now that “better human beings” part sure sounds like someone who is playing #theinfinitegame doesn’t it?

Just imagine what our lives, our careers and our influence can look like in December of 2029 if we can all approach our opportunities to lead with an infinite mindset, fully committed to being servant leaders. What if we modeled a “go-to move” of “humbition” every day, and if we were audacious enough to practice (and be held accountable for) our “humbitious leadership?”


Monte Koch, PGA Certified Professional/Player Development | Career Consultant
PGA Career Services | PGA of America
Serving PGA professionals, employers in the Pacific NW & Rocky Mountain PGA Sections
Email: Cell: 206/335-5260