Famous leaders are often praised for their passion, assertiveness, focus and intelligence. However, when CEOs were asked to name the most important quality people desire in their leaders, they gave a surprising answer—humility. There are several reasons humility is such a major influencer in a leader’s ongoing success:
- Humble leaders take the focus off themselves. Instead of constantly speaking in “I” and “me” statements, they think in terms of “we” and “us.” This shift in focus communicates to everyone that the leader is working toward the company’s success instead of toward his or her own personal goals.
- Employees have an easier time trusting humble leaders. They believe leaders with humility will act in the best interest of others.
- Humble leaders are less likely to micromanage. Prideful leaders believe that nobody can do a job as well as they can. They control every detail, making the organization less efficient, putting more stress on themselves and fueling frustration among employees.
- Humble leaders take every opportunity to highlight the accomplishments of others. Employees are likely to work harder because they trust that their leaders won’t downplay or claim the credit for their accomplishments. Getting approval and recognition from humble leaders feels more satisfying to employees.
Humility is one of the “4Hs” I talk about in my new book, The Leadership Equation. (The others are honor, heart, and humor.) When you lead with humility, people will naturally gravitate toward your ideas and your vision. It’s a basic part of the trust equation: If I know that you are acting in the interest of the entire organization, and not in your own self-interest, then I will reciprocate by doing the same. The result: Better sharing of resources, less conflict between divisions and departments, and better decision making throughout. Long term, this is what builds a leadership culture, where everyone, as I like to say, “runs it like they own it.”
Even if you aren’t known for being a humble leader, it’s never too late to start practicing humility. Start with these three steps:
- A little self-deprecating humor goes a long way. When you make a mistake, let people know.
- Practice listening and engaging. Affirm the value of what people say, and guide discussions rather than control them. Ask questions more.
- Trust employees to take on more responsibility and show appreciation for their efforts. That’s a sure way to demonstrate humility.
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