Humility doesn’t always appear on the list of top leadership traits, but many business management experts believe being humble is a critical characteristic of the most respected and successful leaders. “A sense of humility is essential to leadership because it authenticates a person’s humanity,” writes John Baldoni in the Harvard Business Review (September 15, 2001).
When team members consider their leader as “one of them,” they’re inspired to follow and trust their leader. They see their leader as approachable, fully engaged with the team and willing to do any task she’s asked the team to do. This type of leader fosters a culture of collaboration and creates bonds of loyalty that positions the team for success.
On the other hand, a leader who takes every opportunity to remind others of her exalted position appears more concerned with putting herself forward than advancing the team. This type of leader seems insecure in her leadership role. By always pulling rank, she risks becoming isolated and out of touch with her team, which hampers the team’s efforts to work together.
Humility gets short shrift because it’s so misunderstood. We tend to think of humility as overly modest, as a weakness rather than a strength. However, “humility simply means understanding your strengths and weakness and recognizing the strengths of others,” writes Karina Fabian in Business News Daily (March 6, 2017).
When leaders demonstrate they know they’re not perfect and don’t have all the answers, they create an inclusive culture where everyone feels their ideas are valued. This leadership approach inspires confidence, empowers team members to innovate, and ensures the team’s efforts are always focused on the business of meeting organizational goals rather than on jockeying for position.
Three tips to lead with humility:
Share the power of your position. By enabling team members to make decisions, you demonstrate confidence in them and build a stronger, more effective team. If team members are required to run every detail by you first, neither you or your team will reach full potential.
Always give credit to your team first when acknowledging successful outcomes. A leader never appears weak when expressing gratitude to those who contributed to the project.
Admit your mistakes, share them with your team as learning moments and move on. By cultivating a culture where it’s okay to make mistakes, you provide a safe place for experimentation and innovation. If your team is afraid to fail, they won’t aim for greater heights.
Becoming an effective leader takes a conscious effort to cultivate humility as well as other key leadership traits. Whether you’re a rising star or an established executive leader, I can help you adopt new leadership qualities or enhance existing ones.