In spite of all the research-based benefits of this leadership trait, the word “humility” sure gets a bad rap. Or rather no rap at all.
Humility tends to hide in the shadows of popular leadership qualities such as confidence, passion, focus, persistence, and most recently, empathy.
This makes sense considering the traditional definition of the word is "low self-esteem, self-degradation, and meekness." Our conditioning starts young; a recent survey showed that 56% of 5th and 6th graders said that the humble are “embarrassed, sad, shy, or lonely”.
Not exactly the characteristics we associate with powerful leadership.
However, science offers a strikingly different definition with clear benefits our modern workforce desperately needs.
True Humility - when someone has an accurate assessment of both his strengths and weaknesses and he sees all this in the context of a larger whole.
Research shows that leaders with this self-awareness can leverage their strengths to greater contribute and recognize their flaws to develop them into more strengths, which breeds the following benefits within their organizations:
• Inclusive, collaborative, and diverse cultures
• Consistent innovation
• Ethical behaviors
• Low employee turnover
• High employee satisfaction
• Increased ability to deliver on key business results
Leaders don’t get these results overnight; becoming a humble leader is a journey of trial and error. Good news —humility is contagious! It can be caught and taught.
Here are the 3 Mistakes Humble Leaders Never Make Twice:
- They try too hard to be humble.
Leaders who exhibit humility would rarely accept the compliment if given. Humility isn’t something they do, it’s who they are. They lead with the InsideOut Mindset—that everyone has the capacity to learn and perform at a higher level. They don’t try; they act on belief.
- They sacrifice confidence for the sake of humility.
We often confuse humility for insecurity or weakness. Humble leaders know that humility takes courage, which breeds confidence. They exhibit confidence with an InsideOut Approach—by embracing uncertainty, using mistakes as teachable moments, and empowering others to lead by suspending their own advice and first asking questions to unlock the ideas inside of their employees.
- They view their current role as a lifetime position.
Humble leaders know that they are serving in a role for a season rather than taking on lifetime position and title. Their focus is beyond themselves and instead on the sustainable legacy they can pass on once they leave. “Humility is throwing oneself away in complete concentration on something or someone else.” – Madeleine L’Engle
In today’s complex workforce where narcissism is all too present, humility is a critical leadership factor that emboldens talent everywhere and creates a space for continual learning.