Leading with Humility
When we identify the traits of an effective and sound leader, many characteristics come to mind: Smart, honest, critical thinker, bold, and fearless just to name a few. Most people don’t associate humility with leadership, but they should.
Rick Warren once said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
Being humble is anything but weak. On the contrary, it is a characteristic of strength and will cause much favor and nurture many business relationships. I personally have always viewed myself as humble leader. However, I have been further humbled through various public and nonpublic events. Nonetheless, as I continue my personal leadership journey, it will continue to not be about me. A title does not make a leader and ultimately, humility balances out power and brings a leader closer to those whom he or she leads. Humility is one of the most valuable attributes a leader can have in order to become a more effective leader.
Humility causes a leader to treat everyone like an equal.
You cannot be an effective leader if you think you are better than your subordinates. Everyone may have their own responsibility and talent, but you understand that the effort and success is collective. Humility will cause you to not just willingly but eagerly get dirty and in the trenches because when you are humble you understand clearly that no job is beneath you or your pay grade. Understanding that you and those whom you have entrusted to work with you are on an even playing field removes any ego or high status you may have because you are no longer focusing on titles, education levels, economic status, etc. A true leader shares success and assumes responsibility fully. Bottom line, he or she is present during victorious and turbulent times.
Humility allows a leader to earn respect.
Humble leaders do not have to demand respect because their respect is earned. Treating others well, honoring your word, and embracing equality are all humility traits that make a leader likable and approachable. When a leader is tangible, and the feeling of hierarchy or disconnectedness is removed respect is gained. Furthermore, humility focuses on leading through work ethic and example vs relying on previous accolades and achievements. Walking the walk and talking the talk always triggers respect in addition to apologizing and recognizing when one is wrong. Leadership is about recognizing when either needs to be applied.
Humility allows a leader to learn and grow more.
The humble leader understands that he or she is the lead learner within the organization. Humble leaders recognize they are never the smartest person in the room. They are happy to be around those who excel in areas that they don’t so that they can learn and grow. Employing and watching other people thrive in what they do best creates a great learning environment and a strong organizational culture. Humble leaders never assume they know it all and always seek to learn more and receive more. Smart leaders get smarter because they pursue knowledge and are vulnerable enough to ask for help and wisdom when they need it. Their education and learning experiences are continuous and the fruit of their labor benefits because of it.
Humility creates a better and more conducive work culture.
When employees and teams work under humble leadership there is less turnover and increased productivity and loyalty. Because humility doesn’t scream “I am important,” but rather insists that YOU are important, teams feel valued and understand their role and the necessity of their presence. Subsequently, they work to the organization’s vision and this encourages them to perform well as they know what the goals are overall and how they can assist in moving the enterprise forward. Environments of humility remove the seat warmer, time watcher, cross off a task mentality and replaces it with a “I want to be a meaningful contributor” attitude. When those who work with you feel like an appreciated, intricate part of the collective success they will be happier and more productive. To foster such an environment and show appreciation requires humility because you must be aware at all times that you need them and rely on the quality of their skill set. This makes leaders approachable and creates a humanistic work environment.
The conversation of humility has to be an ongoing one for anyone who takes leadership seriously, especially servant leadership. It brings to the forefront the importance of servitude. Only through humility can we as leaders see our work as a service to others. We serve our team to help them excel in their careers and help them sharpen their talent and skill sets. We serve our clients by providing resources and products that genuinely enrich their lives. We serve our communities by seeking what we can add to grow and persevere them. Servitude causes us to mentor and support the youth and upcoming leaders because humility reminds us that leadership is bigger than us and is about legacy and paying it forward.