Genuinely Great Leaders Are Humble Leaders
A ProSocial & Collaborative Leadership Quality
A few weeks ago I shared a story about an interaction with a VP of Strategic Planning that was so profoundly bizarre and unpleasant it has consistently popped into my mind as it relates to how toxic that person’s leadership style must be with their team and how damaging they are to the culture of their company. In my first and only meeting with this person they spent 18 of our 25 minutes together detailing how important and revered they are and have been in all of their roles. It was an introduction I have never heard the like of before – it was filled with hubris and a flagrant disinterest in anyone other than themselves.
Following this odd experience I performed a complete post-mortem on this persons strange 18 minute monologue. It was then it occurred to me that this big issue was that this person lacked any humility or self-awareness. The impact that the lack of this important leadership virtue can negatively have on the culture, organization is huge and it is frightening how – when humility is absent in a “leader” – it can, literally, squash any/all innovation, collaboration, and/or cohesion.
Why Is Humility Important?
Humility has been linked with stronger job performance, and leadership excellence. Humble people have better social relationships, avoid deception in their interactions, and they tend to be forgiving, grateful, and cooperative. A recent set of studies also shows that humility is a consistent predictor of generosity. People who are humble tend to be more generous both with their time and their money.
No one likes dealing with egomaniacs or show-boaters. There are few things as insufferable as people who view themselves as being better than others or who believe that social norms don’t apply to them. A lack of self-awareness is a quality that most people who behave badly have in common. More often than not, the perpetrators of these tone-deaf [or even aggressive] behaviors are motivated by subconscious drivers and fail to understand the damage they inflict on their relationships and organizations.
Signs You Are Humble
In a world where we are taught that fortune favors the strong and bold, modesty is often identified as a weakness. Delivering excellence, making a name for ourselves, achieving [or wanting] elevated visibility is today’s version of “survival of the fittest” – and for that reason, kindness is often under-valued and frequently misunderstood. A big part being truly humble is knowing our own limits, our strengths and weaknesses and being honest enough with ourselves and those around us to articulate those things and work on the areas where we may not be the strongest. Additionally, when individuals are self-aware enough to recognize their mistakes, others tend to be pretty forgiving and that is something that should be the cultural norm for organizations.
HAPPINESS IS A JOURNEY: Studies have shown that we tend to achieve happiness more when we’re not actually pursuing it. Humble people – who already place their focus outward – tend to just naturally take this approach. As stated before, one quiet benefit of humility is generosity. People who are truly humble seek to be of genuine service to those around them in order to support positive relationships and collaboration.
THEY EXCEL AS LEADERS [THEY PROMOTE & ACKNOWLEDGE OTHERS]: Leaders with humility act as a source of encouragement, support, and guidance for helping their team achieve their full potential and bring their best, most productive selves to work each and every day in order to be highly-successful. These leaders amplify the voices of others that deliver excellence and share the recognition they receive with the people who deserve the attention and kudos.
THEY BUILD STRONG RELATIONSHIPS: While humility may sometimes be viewed as an inferior trait, objectively, most people don’t want a narcissist for a friend or colleague – and the ability to posses modesty, authenticity, and graciousness towards others can significantly strengthen social bonds. According to the American Psychological Association, humility creates a sense of “we”, in lieu of “me”, in relationships. Being humble means possessing a stronger capacity to form symbiotic alliances – a critical component in strengthening connections.
Leading With Humility
BE WILLING TO ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES: The people in your charge need to know that you are fulling invested in working together with them. They cannot feel as if you aren’t willing to work for and with them. A great leader supports their people in any and every way. There is no job beneath you when you lead with humility. If everyone knows that you are genuinely willing to work side by side with them, there is nothing they won’t do for you. They will be fiercely loyal, and their appreciation will be evident in their productivity and engagement.
BE OPEN TO OTHER’S OPINIONS: Humble leaders seek input from others to ensure they have all the facts and are making decisions that are in the best interest of their whole team, the organization, and the objectives of the business. No one person has all the answers. When we think we do, it’s definitely time to step back and assess. People want to work for people who value their opinions rather than ignore, dismiss, or make fun of them. Effectively humble leaders are comfortable asking for input but can just as easily be decisive when the situation calls for it.
THEY ADMIT MISTAKES: It’s tough to be transparent and open all the time…even those who consider themselves humble don’t want to look like they’ve messed up. But, as human beings we all make mistakes. [I make them daily and frequently.] When you’re willing to share your own blunders, and how you dealt with and recovered from them, you earn trust from people and create a safe place for them to make [and recover from] their own.
THEY ACCEPT AMBIGUITY: Many “managers” want to control everything. But some things can’t be known up front or beforehand. Great leaders know when to take charge – or when to let go and not try to force everything to bend to their demands. Sometimes, it’s important [and humanizing] to admit that you may not know the best answer. Strong leaders and those committed to personal development then set out to collect the necessary information to make the right decision.
LET PEOPLE DO THEIR JOBS THEIR WAY: People with an ego problem want to impose their way of working on everyone – after all – they’re brilliant, right?? [At least what they’ll constantly try to tell you.] Micromanaging kills morale and dehumanizes people [and it’s super annoying] – and it isn’t very humble. Choose great talent to invite onto the team, develop them, give them the meaning & purpose of their role to the overall business objectives, and then get the heck out of their way and let them do their jobs. It takes a level of humility to admit that our way isn’t the only way or even that some people are, objectively, better at certain functions/tasks/assignments than us. The humble and gracious leader accepts these truths and allow other’s strengths to work for the good of the group and/or organization without interference.