After 16 years of marriage, this man found himself divorced, jobless, and homeless. As he was telling his story, I just couldn’t believe it. He looked great, well dressed, happy, and well fed. He told his compelling story at a mens group I participate in every Friday morning. The man had some men in his life who stuck with him and believed in him helped him eventually reconciled with his wife, get a great job, and moved back into his home. I thought to myself as he was explaining how he had to stay with many friends during his period of homelessness that he wasn’t really homeless. I mean he wasn’t under a bridge or anything, how bad could it have been. That may sound harsh but it was exactly what I thought. As the weekend went on, I thought more about the concept of being homeless and I came to the understanding that being homeless is more that just being without a home, it is living without a sense of belonging to something. There was a point in my life where I was lost. I had a place to live, but I did not belong to anything or anyone; I was a wandering generality. Like the guy from the meeting, some people stuck by me until I could believe in myself and get it together.

In the book Good To Great, Jim Collins talks about great companies and how they sustain greatness. He pointed out that the key to sustaining greatness is leadership. The character in the leader that can do this, he discovered in his research, was humility. Humility can mean different things to different people, to me it means that I am not better than anyone, maybe gifted differently, but not better. I am maybe three real dumb decisions away from being divorced, jobless, and homeless and recognize that I still need people in my life to help keep me accountable. Humility in leadership is very difficult. When you are looked at for answers and you have the corner office, it is hard not to let that go to your head. Staying grounded is a vital ingredient to a humble leader and necessary for your organization to maintain a high level of excellence.

If you have ever served at a homeless shelter and engaged with a homeless person you have a different perspective than someone who has never served like this. Some of them, not all, but some are even there with their kids. There are circumstances which get them there but mostly a series of bad decisions. Their identity is smashed and hopelessness settles in. The ones who get off the street somehow find hope. They find that hope from someone who extends a hand and begins to believe in them. That can only happen with personal involvement. Programs are great, but take it from someone who was once hopeless, that personal touch is irreplaceable on the road to recovery. As a leader, you have a responsibility to put programs in place and provide opportunities for the whole team, you have to think and act globally. If you want your programs to be effective however and make real change for your organization, roll your sleeves up and get involved somewhere personally, it will make all the difference in the world. A leader who lacks humility will not want to get personally involved, they are busy afterall and don’t have time. If you ever wanted an opportunity to practice humility, volunteer somewhere serving the less fortunate. It may be just the key to unlock a future for you and your organization that you are not even thinking about and at the same time, you may give someone the hope they need to get back on their feet.


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  1. Michael Vann | Reply


    Awesome article. I feel like I can relate somewhat on both sides of the fence. I have volunteered some time in the past at a local homeless shelter. You’re correct in saying that it changes you and helps you to see things in a different light. Also, over the past 18 months, I have personally experienced a string of events that moved me closer to the feeling of “hopelessness”. Through this process, I have been fortunate to have a great supporting team of friends and family who have helped me though. Fortunately, I am now on the upswing of things and working very hard to get everything back to normal. Thanks for sharing your story Bill.


    1. Bill Rieger Post author | Reply
      Bill Rieger

      Your welcome Michael. Untreated hopelessness can lead to a real pit of despair. I am glad to hear you were humble enough to surround yourself with people who helped!

    1. Bill Rieger Post author | Reply
      Bill Rieger

      Thanks Paul, it tweaks my heart too. I am just wondering as I get a few hours away from sending this post, can I really be a great leader and discount the less fortunate? It’s hard to talk to people about it because there is a huge disparity in thought here. What do you think?

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