Power is so yesterday! Humble leaders are the leaders of tomorrow. We are already seeing a shift from the pervasive command-and-control style of leadership of yesteryear to one encouraging creativity, collaboration, and curiosity. Humble leaders do not presume to be know-it-alls. They practice workplace accountability and own up to their errors. While they are powerful and empowered, they never assume ultimate control over their subordinates.
Humble leaders are always concerned about connecting with people on a more humane level. They are laser-focused on nurturing an atmosphere of equality, respect, and trust. They are collaborative, open-minded, and always perceptive to the opinions of others. Even when there is a difference of opinion, they make sure to honor different point of views.
A number of research studies have concluded that humble leaders always listen more effectively, lead higher-performance teams, inspire great teamwork, encourage increased cooperation and flexibility in developing strategies, and keep their people focused on organizational goals. Everyone and every business can succeed under humble leadership.
There are some prevalent traits of humble leaders that make them drivers of change, innovation and performance in the workplace. Here’s how you can be a humble leader.
1. Be authentic
If your values are congruent with your actions, people are more likely to respect you and perceive you as an authentic person. Authentic leaders walk their talk, they always deliver what they say they are going to deliver. They are the same person in private, in public, and in personal life, in every situation and with every kind of people. You can’t hope to convince people if you are not viewed as authentic. You undermine your leadership and lose the confidence of your people. Remember what leadership expert John Maxwell says, “Leaders become great, not because of their power but because of their ability to empower others.”
2. Get the most out of people
Humility comes with the acceptance that you are not the smartest person in a room, and nor do you need to be. Humble leaders are the ones who encourage their subordinates to speak up in a safe environment, respect differences of opinion and champion the best ideas, whether those ideas came line from a production-line employee or a top executive. When a leader takes the initiative of garnering input from everyone without distinction, this change ripples throughout the organization. Soon executive and other line managers will follow in your wake, resulting in a workplace culture of getting the best from every team. Under this type of leadership, every individual takes root.
3. Create low-risk spaces for employees to come up with new ideas
One of the best ways that leaders can serve their employees is by creating a low-risk space for employees to tinker around with their ideas. Who knows, the idea for your next great product comes from an internee. This is how leaders motivate employees to push on the boundaries of what they already know and encourage ideation and flow of innovative ideas.
4. Own up to your mistakes
If you want to be a humble leader, try moderating the ego, keeping it calm. When things go south, humble leaders admit to their mistakes, try to understand what they did wrong, make amends, and focus on the greater purpose of each action and decision. Prideful leaders? Not so much. At other times, they know how to give credit where due and shine the spotlight on others. In essence, when you stop wanting to be right all the time and try to develop an understanding of being able to act assertively and help others do the same.
5. Understand your Limitations
Humble leaders are confident enough in their own skins to recognize their own weaknesses and flaws. Rather than trying to be the master of all trades, jack of none, or viewing their limits as a sign of frailty, they surround themselves with others who can bridge the gaps0.
6. Don’t be Afraid of showing Vulnerability
A lot of leaders hesitate to expose their vulnerability to others, since they construe vulnerability as an act of weakness. This manifestation of ego prevents them from seeking help when they most need it. Remember that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change. Leaders should endeavor to always show their true side since people relate to vulnerability; it shows that you’re human.
People who strive to come across as perfect all the time end up being viewed as cocky and condescending. People automatically assume that that they are inferior in comparison to you and shy away from making any real connection. They feel they’ll never be able to measure up to you, which is why they will even refrain from sharing their ideas or feedback with you.
If you want to tell people that it is ok to be imperfect, share stories of your own trepidations, weaknesses, and challenges so that they know that perfection is just an ideal. As a result, you will build strong connections with your subordinates that are difficult to break.
7. Give Credit Where Due
If you have reached unparalleled height of success or if you have taken your company to great places, surely you did not do it alone. You have an amazing, high-performing team working tirelessly, day in and day out, to reach the milestones. A great leader always gives credit where due and never basks in the limelight alone.
If you fail to acknowledge the contributions of others in helping to achieve your successes, you will eventually lose the support and loyalty of your team and they will no longer go out of their way to help you. Humble leaders shift attention away from themselves and focus on the contributions and needs of those around them. Humble leaders serve for the good of others, not for accolades.
8. Be Empathetic
Empathy naturally follows sincerity. When you focus on others rather than yourself, you begin to put yourself in their shoes and better understand and share their feelings. And when people respect empathetic people. People want to work with you because they have confidence in your compassion and conviction.
9. Be willing to lift other people up
While egoistical and narcissistic leaders try to keep others in their place, a humble leader always finds ways to lift others up. They try to transform their employees into better versions of themselves, they empower employees to partake in decision making, they offer plenty of developmental opportunities to employees, they promote young leaders, and above all, they invite you to a seat at the table when they can and freely give public recognition.
10. Delegate when needed
Prideful leaders are hell bent on proving themselves and they presume themselves to be above all others. They hardly trust those around them to achieve any task to perfection and never let others help them achieve their goals. What’s more, they’re not willing to acknowledge their weaknesses or admit that others could do a job better than them, so they never delegate. On the other hand, humble leaders don’t need to hog all the credit and they actually surround themselves with people who are better than them and who can fill the chasm left by their own weaknesses. They delegate because the success of their organization is more important than their ego.
11. Try to pursue causes greater than yourself
Though it might sound counterintuitive, humble leaders are ambitious people. Their ambition, however, is a selfless drive to accomplish something for a cause greater than their own success. It’s a dynamic that business guru and leadership expert Jim Collins observes in his book Good to Great. The best companies, Collins notes, have leaders who “are ambitious about the cause, the company, the work — not [themselves].”
12. Don’t Get Embarrassed
Humble leaders are not in some rat race to protect a reputation or project a certain public image. They hardly pay any attention to look good. While they do care about how others perceive them or what happens as the outcome of a situation, they just don’t take themselves too seriously. Humble leaders possess a healthy balance of self-awareness and self-confidence.