What is humility?
If you ask different people about what it means to be humble, you are guaranteed to get different answers.
To some people, humility means having sense of modesty, or not behaving superior towards others.
On the other hand, some would argue that being humble means that a person has a low opinion of themselves, or that a person is meek or timid.
How is humility a leadership skill?
In respect to leadership, being humble isn’t about being meek or powerless; it’s actually a source of great strength.
It’s about quietly maintaining confidence and pride in who you are, in your achievements and your worth, without the baggage of arrogance or loudly over-selling yourself.
Contrary to what I believed as a little girl, being the boss almost never involves marching around, waving your arms, and chanting, ‘I am the boss! I am the boss!’
The lack of arrogance in the humble leader doesn’t mean there is a lack of drive in achieving goals – quite the contrary. Humble leaders keep their egos in check and put the strength and success of the team ahead the desire for a personal spotlight.
To be a humble leader means being an authentic, genuine leader. Humility is a quality that lets others see your humanity. It is a quality that invites trust, respect and curiosity.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.
Research shows that leaders who are authentically humble have wider spheres of influence, attract better talent, inspire more confidence, and earn more loyalty and respect than those leaders who rely upon loudly selling their egos.
When leadership is approached from a perspective of humility, it magically opens us up to possibilities, as we choose open-mindedness and curiosity over protecting our point of view.
Top 7 tips for being a humble leader
Being humble is a skill that can be developed. Humility is something you can’t fake. You either genuinely want to grow and develop, or you don’t, and the people you lead pick up on this.
- Admit your mistakes
There are times when a leader doesn’t have all the answers, and admitting this and seeking input from others requires humility. When leaders admit and take ownership of mistakes it strengthens character and trust.
- Be Respectful
The mark of a leader who practices humility is their treatment of others. Humble leaders treat everyone with respect regardless of position.
- Focus on others strengths
Being a humble leader means shifting attention away from yourself and continually recognising the contributions of others. In Praise of the Invisible Leader, author David Zweig discusses the power of modesty in management.
- Be a model teacher
Every time you share credit for successes with others, you reinforce the humble ethos.
Consider mentoring or coaching emerging leaders reinforcing humility as a key attribute of leadership.
- Be self-aware
Through self-reflection and seeking input from others on your leadership skills, ask “How am I doing?”. It takes humility to ask the question, and even more humility to consider the answer.
- Understand your limitations
A humble leader is secure enough to recognize their weaknesses and to seek the input and talents of others. Rather than feel threatened, they surround themselves with others whose skill sets compliment their own areas of weakness.
- Lighten up
People want to work with, and work for, leaders they like. Humour is a great way to be humble and influence your team.
For more information
If you want to strengthen or explore your humble side, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.