The Power of Humble Leadership (part 1 of 5)

Today’s leaders face innumerable challenges that previous generations never confronted: employee disengagement, cloud-based speed of commerce, political correctness, cultural diversity, social sensitivities and a hyper-focus on efficiency, among others.

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.

Fundamental Paradigms

For generations, workplace 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.

It’s a paradigm we still encounter today; however, most of us today recognize that effective leadership requires less GO > DO > PUSH and more PAUSE > REFLECT > CHOOSE; pausing to listen deeply, reflect on our mindset and choose curiosity over judgment. In practice, it looks like humility.

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 Nothing can be further from the truth, and outdated leadership paradigms are responsible for countless organizational woes.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 leaders still enjoy being bosses, with the authority and privileges the role affords. Fortunately, positive, people-oriented approaches have made their way into leadership initiatives, including onboarding, open communication, telecommuting, progressive office layouts and a host of enticing perks. However, humility as a popular leadership practice, is the foundational element to make these positive, people-oriented approaches effective.

Have you experienced the power of humble leadership? If so, what impact did it have on others and/or the organization?

If you’d like to explore how to embrace humble leadership in your most genuine way, let’s talk!