The Unmitigated Power of Leadership Humility

Power-of-Leadership-HumilityIt seems to me that we’re living in an era of self-celebration and those who often make the most noise get the attention. And it’s really no surprise: today’s leaders face innumerable challenges with employee disengagement, cloud-based speed of commerce, political correctness, cultural diversity, social sensitivities and a hyper-focus on efficiency. Pressure to succeed is higher than ever. Leaders know they must have an A-game, and they continually encounter methods that experts claim will improve proficiencies.

Humility, however, is an often-overlooked character trait that flies in the face of culturally accepted leadership norms. It may, in fact, be the most powerful attribute a leader can have to engage and inspire people. Leaders dream of motivated teams, yet many try to develop them in all the wrong ways.

Recent research suggests that being humble is a quality of certain types of leaders. It’s being studied as a trait that can enhance leadership effectiveness. The research suggests that being humble is multi-dimensional and includes self-understanding and awareness, openness, and perspective taking. This wasn’t always the case.

For generations, leadership humility was seen as a detriment, not an advantage. For the greater part of the 20th century, leaders believed organizations were best run with power, intimidation, authority and ego. Employees were told what to do and were shown the door when they failed to comply. Decisiveness, toughness and assertiveness were deemed leadership strengths. Facts and figures ruled the day, and leaders seldom prioritized employee needs.

These paradigms are still found in many corners of commerce. Old-school leaders regard softer skills as weaknesses. Unfortunately for them, the primary weakness in this mindset is results.

The word “humility” is plagued with negative connotations. Humble leaders may be erroneously viewed as unsure of themselves, permissive or unable to stand firm. Nothing can be further from the truth, and outdated leadership paradigms are responsible for countless organizational woes.

Studies and surveys over recent decades clearly show that organizational prosperity is highly connected to employee satisfaction and engagement. A company runs much better when its people feel good about what they’re doing. Recent emphasis on efficiency and growth has led leaders to examine these softer skills and pay closer attention to people’s needs.

Thus, the leadership world is trying to learn how it can engage and inspire employees, though humility’s role hasn’t yet achieved universal buy-in. Many bosses still enjoy being bosses, with the authority and privileges the role affords. Fortunately, positive, people-oriented approaches have made their way into leadership game plans, including onboarding, open communication, telecommuting, progressive office layouts and a host of enticing perks. Humility, nonetheless, must become a more popular leadership practice.

What do you think? Have you seen the power of leadership humility? You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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