The Art of Self-deprecation in Leadership

When you’re 5’7”, bald, wear glasses, failed Algebra twice and had your greatest athletic moments competing against invisible competitors in your own backyard, it is easy to self-deprecate. In fact, it’s intuitive.

Like most everyone, I have concern for my image. But when I have foregone my hopes of people seeing me as similar to my childhood heroes (Nick Barkley, The Big Valley, Paunch, CHiPs, and Maverick, Top Gun), I have successfully enabled people to connect with me quicker.

Someone who doesn’t hide their inadequacies – whether they are physical, mental, or spiritual – becomes more approachable to others. You can’t lead if people won’t approach you.

When your vocational position gives you authority over people, there is often an intimidation factor that comes with it (even if you’re 5’7”). Self-deprecation typically makes you less threatening. Your position gives you power; your personality should not.

I spoke once to a group about the idea of self-deprecation and praising its advantages, and I unintentionally made the comment that my pastor and I often take the opportunity to “self-defecate when together.” Awkward! See, I told you self-deprecation comes very naturally to me.

Learn to take yourself less seriously. Learn to not speak about your church’s size or your recent accomplishments.

Others valuing your leadership and strengths take time and it is rarely done with making comments about yourself and bragging. The appropriate amount of self-deprecation can go a long way in allowing people to connect with you, and enabling you to lead them as they learn your strengths, over time.

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