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Leadership Discovery Recap: The Power of Being a Humble, Reputation Less Leader

Written by Catherine Dingler, Marketing Manager for Maynard Nexsen and Spring 2024 Leadership Discovery Cohort member.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say ‘thank you’. In between, the leader is a servant.”Max De Pree

On Wednesday, March 20, Leadership Discovery’s 2024 Spring Class had the pleasure of hearing from the President and CEO of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, Bryan Derreberry. Bryan has a wealth of experience with more than 30 years in Chamber leadership roles and has led the region through challenging times and significant growth, including the pandemic and explosive economic development. As he welcomed our group and began discussing what it means to be a leader today, his deep knowledge of servant leadership and his commitment to leading by listening were on full display.

“Every leader has an identity that they should cultivate over time”

Bryan kicked off our session by sharing his personal philosophies on leadership and key lessons he has learned from others. It was evident Bryan prioritizes continuous growth, as he offered his recommendations on media resources and thought leaders who help him continue to progress as a leader. He impressed upon us some of his favorite lessons, including the value of pouring into people in a positive way, practicing patience as a leader, and to not “look down so fast and hard to identify if something is good or bad – over a lifetime things are worked through and can be very different.” This last piece of advice in particular resonated with me, as this approach to addressing challenges or understanding situations is few and far between in a world that increasingly encourages people to quickly draw judgements or to quit.

“The Power of being a Humble Reputation Less Leader”

The main theme of Bryan’s discussion was the significance of being a “humble reputation less leader.” In contrast to the primary characteristics of a 20th century leader, which consisted of giving marching orders and prioritizing individual star power, a humble reputation less leader is community focused and functions as a servant and is consequently harder to come by. The key characteristic of this leader includes:

  • Purposed: The purposed leader is missional and not necessarily credentialed, is transformation minded, and chooses to forego personal power.
  • Increasing: This leader makes sacrifices to increase others and grow the people they lead while getting to the heart of issues.
  • Being Before Doing: A being-first leader sees processes as collaborative ground, is integrated and morally aware, and generates results but puts people above them.
  • Centered in Humility: A leader centered in humility selflessly lifts others, leads by looking to engage others first, and humbly seeks continuous improvement.
  • Picks a Different Mark: This type of leader does not absorb praise but redirects it, is willing to assume blame for their followers’ mistakes, and holds their team to higher standards.

“Be prepared and present”

Bryan is not your average chamber leader, as he exemplifies the above characteristics of the humble reputation less leader. One of the most obvious examples of this is his “being before doing” quality as an extremely accessible leader dedicated to listening. During the pandemic, Bryan focused less on numbers and data and prioritized listening to chamber members as they navigated unprecedented times. Today, he continues to be readily available through programs like Coffee with the President, where he sits down to discuss the greatest needs of businesses and our community with its members. 

“No one is born a leader”

Being a leader isn’t about titles, recognition or personal achievements. What people truly need are servants, guiders and developers. Leaders who listen and re-direct praise and who are purposefully growing and learning themselves.

As Bryan showed us, this method of leadership is the best path to help others and to transform yourself and your community. I’m looking forward to seeing how my Leadership Discovery cohort will grow into humble reputation less leaders to make a positive impact in the Charleston region and beyond, and grateful to Bryan for taking the time to develop and serve our class.

Posted on
April 2nd 2024
Written by
Justin Allen