What comes to your mind when you picture a quintessential leader? A self-assertive and enterprising executive? An impudent and overly-perfectionist person? Well, many of the best leaders are nothing like the stereotypical image of a leader that we have in our mind.
The most effective leaders operate from humility and use their skills, knowledge and experience to bring people together to increase sales, improve production or quality, and give back to the community. Rather than using their success for self-aggrandizement, humble leaders use it for the greater good.
So what makes humility such an indispensable ingredient for great leadership? Here are a few reasons humility is so important:
1. Balanced Authority
People tend to get driven back by narcissistic and egotistical authoritative figures who lead with threats, shame or my way-or-the-highway fear tactics to get the results they want.
While rank surely grants one status and power, humble leaders don’t exploit their rank as a means to abuse. Instead, they use their position to encourage others and to delegate authority to the ones capable of doing the job.
Humble leaders act more like a player’s coach and use their authority to create order and discipline between team members, thus helping the team understand and pursue their individual and collective goals.
2. Dialogues Instead of Debates
When engaged in a conversation, many leaders debate to sway others to win them to their viewpoint, which isn’t always a productive approach. Plus, by doing this they miss out on the opportunity to learn about other people’s standpoints.
Managers who have humility, however, don’t take that route. They strive to open up opportunities for dialogue, remain open to new ideas and engage with others to discuss different ways of approaching a problem. The more a leader gives their team members a chance to contribute, the more motivated team members will be succeed. Moreover, you may derive short-term results by cutting people down and criticizing them to drive success, but it would later produce high levels of burnout and employee turnover. Leaders who operate from humility consider alternate points of view and engaged in dialogue instead of debate, which ultimately leads to better and innovative solutions.
3. Good Sport
Exceptional leaders understand that business is a game of we win some and we lose some. This is why, they equate losing to learning and recognize the fact that there is no such things as a total loss.
When a team is lead from humility, it knows that losing one battle isn’t tantamount to losing the war, and sometimes it is through great loss or tragedy that a business gets an opportunity to improve, grow and thrive. On the other hand, when it comes to winning and succeeding, humble leaders stay grounded and avoid hubris and arrogance on each victory and encourage their team members to do the same.
4. Empower People
This point is reminiscent of one of Ronald Reagan’s most famous quotes: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” Employing others is synonymous with great leadership and humble leaders know that very well.
As a matter of fact, a study shows that CEO humility is positively associated with empowering leadership in employees. Or to put it simply, humble CEOs have more empowered employees. The study further explains, “Humble people willingly seek accurate self-knowledge and accept their imperfections while remaining fully aware of their talents and abilities. They appreciate others’ positive worth, strengths, and contributions and thus have no need for entitlement or dominance over others.”