Humilitas by John Dickson

In Humilitas, John Dickson presents a clear and concise thesis, which proclaims that the majority of “influential and inspiring” leaders are often characterized by humility.[1]A statement that at first glance appears outrageously contradictory to the status qou thinking. Nevertheless, the research fellow from the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University defends this premise with practical examples from the teaching of Jesus Christ and the lives of renowned successful leaders of contemporary society.[2]This review will summarize, critique, and evaluate Dickson’s assertion that humility in individuals creates abilities, expands influence and, encourages and inspires others.


From a historical perspective, Humilitas takes the reader on a journey of discovery in what is declared to be a practical book.[3]While Dickson does not claim to have achieved humility, however, through thoughtful consideration he affirms a love for the virtue of its “aesthetic qualities and practical benefits” in leadership.[4]As a historian, Dickson contributes the Western understanding of the term “humility” to the influences of the “Hebrew-speaking Jews, Latin-speaking Romans and Greeks”, especially the Christians that spoke Greek during the first century.[5]In these societies, the term humility had both a negative and a positive connotation, “to be placed low” and “to lower oneself or to be humble” respectively.[6]With the Greco-Roman civilizations favoring the negative meaning of the term.[7]

However, as Western society embraced the teachings of Jesus Christ the term humility became an admirable trait, even a virtue.[8]Consequently, humility is defined, by Dickson as the honorable choice to relinquish one’s status, and utilize one’s resources or use ones influence for the good of others before oneself.[9]However, this admirable characteristic is not a monopoly enjoyed only by Christian, individuals from other religious denominations and non-denominations may personify the virtue of humility as well.[10] Revealing that humility is a universal concept, which is understood on a global scale and extending beyond cultural boundaries.

Furthermore, through the examples of humility reflected by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, it is easier to recognize this quality in others. Dickson selected many renowned individuals to support the premise of the book. Starting with Jim Collins and concluding with C S. Lewis with Joe Louis and several other notable leaders identified along the way. All the aforementioned individuals, according to Dickson, exemplified humility by its prescribed definition.[11]

Humilitas, concludes with six steps on how to become humble or humbler. According to Dickson’s first step is “recognize that one is proud” and the final step is “forget about being humble”, while the four steps in between involve love, choice, behavior and requested criticism.[12] With the recognition that one is not humble, Dickson claims this critical understanding allows one to be on the way to achieving the virtue of humility in life.[13]

Dickson engages the reader in Humilitas, and supports the thesis that most of the “influential and inspiring” leaders are often discernible by humility. Understandable practical illustrations from the examples of Jesus Christ and the lives of remarkably successful past and present leaders from society reflects this principle.[14]The concept that the choice to lift up others through self-sacrifice, by lowering oneself below one’s rightful statues was reflected in the lives of the individuals highlighted. Humilitas, presented a noble idea that is intertwined throughout the teachings of the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ.

[1]John Dickson, Humilitas(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 19.

[2] Ibid., 11-183.

[3] Ibid., 19.

[4] Ibid., 11-14.

[5] Ibid., 24.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 99-112.

[9] Ibid., 24-25.

[10] Ibid., 111-112.

[11] Ibid., 11- 183.

[12] Ibid., 173-183.

[13] Ibid., 183.

[14] Ibid., 11-183.