I was with a client a few weeks ago, and the topic of humility and leadership came up.
On the plane home, I had lots of time to think about the traits I would use to describe humility in leadership. When we think of features leaders typically exhibit, many come to mind—strength, charisma, enthusiasm, and vision. One crucial component is often overlooked: humility.
Let me be apparent. Being humble doesn’t mean being weak, soft, bumbling, or unclear. The virtue of humble leadership makes it very different from the top-down leadership styles we have been given to consume in our popular culture. Humble leaders don’t make for good screenplays. I am sure there is research to support it. Still, my observations of excellent leaders are that they get better employee engagement and higher levels of performance from people because they focus on others in a genuinely compassionate way, and are open to feedback.
Here are the first three of six qualities of humble leadership.
Be Open to the Opinions of Others No one person has all the answers. If you think you do, then it’s probably time to reassess. People want to work for people who value their opinions rather than ignore or dismiss them. Humble leaders seek input from others to ensure they have all the facts and are making decisions that are in the team's best interest. Effectively humble leaders are comfortable asking for input and can just as quickly be decisive when required.
Tend to the Needs of Others Compassion in looking out for others is a meaningful way to show your care. That doesn’t mean handholding, but it does mean caring about the environment in which your team is working and ensuring that they have what they need to do a good job. While intelligence and skill are typical predictors of team performance, a spirit of caring and compassion for others will put you over the top. Remember, actions speak louder than words.
Admit Mistakes It’s tough to be more vulnerable, transparent and open. Even those who consider themselves humble don’t want to look like they’ve messed up. But, as human beings, we all make mistakes. When you’re willing to share your missteps and how you dealt with and recovered from them, you earn the trust of your team. There is much power in showing that you are not infallible.
Three more will come your way Tuesday. Until then, be calm and humble.