Have you ever noticed periods of your leadership that were less effective and satisfying than others?
Have there been times when your trust among employees or the work environment you created seemed to suffer?
Ask yourself, “what attitudes and actions defined my leadership during those times?” For many people, the root answer reaches all the way down to the base issue of pride- vs. humility-based leadership.
As we’ve worked with leaders from top companies and organizations around the world, we’ve seen how crippling pride can be fore a leader. It’s a destructive, cancerous force that replaces the good of others, the team, and the organization with the sole concern for one’s own wishes and conveniences. Fortunately, we’ve also seen how humility can strengthen a leader and improve their team’s productivity and contentment.
With that in mind, here are five key benefits of humility in leadership:
1. Humility gives a leader the capacity to lead out of a position of strength.
Though humility is often viewed as a weakness in our loud, proud, take-no-prisoners culture today, it’s actually an incredible gesture of strength. First, it’s a choice. That’s the difference between being humiliated and being humbled. When you’re humiliated – a negative experience – it’s usually at the hands of someone else. But when you choose to be humble, you are choosing not to think less of yourself, but to think of yourself less and others more. The choice makes all the differnce.
2. Humility makes a leader more persuasive.
This is one of the key benefits of humility, argues Macquarie University Professor John Dickson in his excellent book Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love and Leadership. The way people are wired, humility shines as a compelling virtue in others that attracts us to them, Dickson notes. It’s why we cheer on the underdog and root against their opponent. This is an especially essential quality in those who lead because one of a leader’s most powerful tools is his ability to cast a vision to his followers, and to persuade them to unite to make that vision a reality. Such humility engenders trust, loyalty, buy-in, and enthusiasm far better and more purely than fear, manipulation, or even people-pleasing will ever do.
3. Humility gives a leader the courage to set aside personal gain for the good of others.
We need leaders willing to think more about the next generation. We need leaders willing to jeopardize the prospects of their own power or extra gain for the good of others. Unfortunately, when ego rules, decisions become about improving personal position even at the expense of others. Laws, rules of conduct, fairness, honesty, etc. all go out the window when we subordinate others to our own agenda. A humble person sees others as inherently valuable while prideful leaders focused on themselves and manipulate others.
4. Humility gives a leader the candor to be honest with their followers and change course if necessary.
A humble person separates himself or herself from their accomplishments. When their accomplishments receive criticism, they don’t take it personally, but constructively. Prideful leaders, on the other hand, lash out due to fear, anger, or self-entitlement. This often comes from a need to hide their weaknesses and believe themselves better than others, whereas humble leaders admit their weakness, invite growth opportunities, and listen to the wisdom of the people around them.
5. Humility gives a leader the character to respond charitably when attacked.
Because a humble leader doesn’t derive his or her identity from their accomplishments, they are able to deal with the kind of searing criticism that’s so common in today’s political, business, and social arenas with ease and grace. Rather than trying to deflect it or subject their opponents to an ad hominem (personal) attack, the humble leader simply owns the truth of the criticism—if there is any—and discards the rest. Because they are willing to learn from their mistakes, they constantly grow asking the right questions of themselves and others rather than pretending to have all the answers.
Question: How have you seen humility help leaders? What other benefits of humility have you experienced with others or in your own leadership journey?
Feel free to leave a comment below!
If you’re interested in learning more about how humility impacts your leadership, we’re happy to schedule a meeting to discuss. Just click the contact button and let us know!