Before determining how best to reflect humility, it’s important to grasp what it is and what it looks like. Perhaps pastor, speaker and author Rick Warren expresses it best: Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.
While strong leaders are stereotypically portrayed as egocentric, forceful, bold and self-serving, humility is by no means a lack of confidence or authority. It’s a mistake to view considerate and other-focused leaders as ineffective. In reality, self-serving leaders are ruining workplaces everywhere, to the point where most employees do not care for their jobs or employers. Self-serving leaders have yet to recognize the clear outcome of widespread research: Their style doesn’t work.
True humility is a response of noble character, based on a choice to regard the needs of others ahead of one’s own. At its heart, humility is characterized by a desire to serve and dedication to bettering others. Humble leaders are fulfilled by helping others achieve fulfillment. A leader with a humble approach lifts people’s spirits, self-esteem and confidence, which enhances overall organizational life.
In Start with Humility: Lessons from America’s Quiet CEOs on How to Build Trust and Inspire Followers (CreateSpace, 2010), Merwyn A. Hayes and Michael D. Comer cite numerous humble behaviors, any of which can be clearly discerned when on display. Some of the more important ones are:
Admitting mistakes – If you can be vulnerable, transparent and fallible in front of your people, your true self is revealed, and people are drawn to you. You convey safety, build trust and strengthen relationships.
Empowering people – If you push authority down to the most effective level, you give up some control to your people. This engages them and demonstrates they’re valued and trusted.
Actively listening – This shows people you’re interested in and care about them. You’ve laid the foundation for trust and forging a loyal following.
Crediting others – When your people succeed, give them the credit to build teamwork and inspire higher productivity. People will go above and beyond for a supportive leader who doesn’t steal the spotlight.
Empathy – Being sensitive to people’s trials helps you better understand their perspectives. You’ll lead them more considerately, and they’ll reciprocate with appreciation and allegiance.
Other humble behaviors include honesty, kindness, sincerity and approachability, each of which sets the stage for more favorable employee responses and mutually beneficial relationships. Humble leaders exhibit behaviors that more effectively meet people’s needs—and when their needs are met, there’s no limit to what they can accomplish.
If you want to know more about how humble behaviors can help you build trust and inspire others – schedule a Discovery Meeting here.