Not Above Serving Others: The Humility of George H. W. Bush

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This passing of President George H. W. Bush allows us to reflect on leadership.  Any person who aspires to the highest office in the nation is a leader. Some leaders are just better than others. President Bush, in my opinion, was a great leader.

President Bush 41 talked about having moral fiber as a leader. Humility was one of those stands of fiber he found important. One should not mistake humility for weakness. Some people made that mistake with the President.  President Bush spoke about the U.S. being a kinder and gentler nation. He was right. Here was a guy who was a former fighter pilot, head of the CIA and captain of industry, yet he understood and lived humbly.

Moral leadership understands the power you possess and yet bridling that power to solve problems to lift others.  Forty-one did what was right for the nation, even at a personal cost.  President Bush, like other great leaders, understood the balance between pursuing an agenda and unity. He weighed out always being right and having relationships.  He knew long-term solutions came through relationships, not intimidation or forcing ones will through bullying.

Policing can learn from 41. Humility affects every part of our job from a cop handling a mental health client to a chief listening to and considering the viewpoint of others. We should not confuse humility with the inability to be decisive. Nor should one mistake quietness or withholding ones affection for humility. Humble people have a wide variety of personalities. The humble don’t view themselves as better as or more important than others.

How policing can practice humility:

  1. It’s not all about me. Chiefs and managers, leadership is complicated. We lead many people with a wide span of interests. Sometimes their interests are opposed to one another, yet we view their needs as important.
  2. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously. It is easy to believe our own press. President Bush could laugh at himself, so too must we.
  3. Be available and listen. Many of us, including me, are so busy telling war stories we drown out the needs others. The humble listen to others.
  4. Be flexible. Yes, we should know what we believe and argue passionately for our crime-fighting doctrine.  The humble recognize we do not have all the answers. We must listen to others argue their positions passionately and then flex to find common ground to seek solutions that benefit for the greater good.

Cops through humility and humility we can demonstrate to others, including elected officials, what unity means.  To follow the humble leadership of President George Herbert Walker Bush may be a great way to improve this incredible profession.   Unity comes through humility.

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