Humility is a virtue that many people value highly. It’s something we often look for in our leaders and expect from those who lead us. This means that humility can be one of the most important qualities for an effective leader to have.
Humility is a word that gets thrown around a lot in leadership circles, but what does humility really mean? Some people say it will help you feel less superior and entitled. The others claim it leads to less stress and more engagement.
In this blog post, I want to share with you what humility in leadership means, how to develop it, and why it is so important.
Give credit, accept responsibility
As a leader, you can develop humility in a few different ways. You can start simple. Give credit to others and accept responsibility for your own mistakes. A humble leader understands that the team they lead is more important than themselves.
If you give praise where it is due, it will provide you with more opportunities for developing a great workplace culture. Avoid showing off about your accomplishments.
As a humble leader, you should also take responsibility for your mistakes instead of trying to pass the blame on others.
Stay grounded no matter what
A leader can’t let their success go to their head, and they must stay grounded no matter what happens. This is one of the most important parts of humility.
I can think of a few scenarios where I learned firsthand what it means to stay grounded as a leader. My first exposure to the corporate environment was in the construction industry.
Winning a construction project bid in my first month of employment was an incredible feeling, but I couldn’t celebrate for too long. There were still a ton of things to get done and I had to stay grounded to do them.
We needed all the right equipment and material on site at once so that we could work fast without losing time or money. My team needed clear direction from me about what their responsibilities were.
I reminded myself daily that while we won the first step, there are many more to cover in the coming weeks and months, and that kept me grounded throughout.
See value of others
When you are humble as a leader, you can see the value of others. Instead of fearing their skills and abilities, appreciate them. Rather than holding individuals back, you have a duty to propel them ahead. Humility allows people to blossom into their full potential, which benefits the entire business.
I’ve experienced this personally with employees and in my personal life. I once had a teammate who was struggling with their part of our project. Our manager approached this situation with humility.
Instead of criticizing them for it, which would have been easy to do, she asked more questions about what they were doing and gave gentle suggestions on how we could be more effective.
World class leaders always see value in others and understand that if they continue to help and support people, those people will feel encouraged to do more.
Recognize and learn from your mistakes
We all make mistakes. The key to humility is being able to admit this and learn from it.
When you make a mistake, own up to it immediately so you can figure out what caused the error and how you can avoid repeating it in the future.
In my first supervisory role, it tempted me to cover up my mistake. However, I quickly realized that wasn’t the right choice and owned up to my mistake. As a construction site supervisor, I underestimated the work needed to be done by our masons. This negatively affected the project and delayed the completion by 2 weeks.
Don’t blame others or try covering your mistakes up. People will eventually discover the cover-up and they will lose trust in their leader.
Know that you don't have all the answers
It is okay to say “I don’t know” when asked a question. Even the best leaders in history understand that they don’t have all the answers.
Admitting it will open endless opportunities. People will have more respect for you, and they will help. Remember that project I made a mistake on?
After I made the mistake, I told the team what happened. They came together and their team lead provided some valuable insight into how we can adjust what we’re doing. It started a collaborative process and got people into problem-solving mode.
With this, we learned and eventually transformed our approach to estimating how much time to complete a part of the project. Humility can also help you gain fresh ideas from people with different backgrounds than yours. This will cause a more inclusive environment, which is beneficial.
Build a culture of authenticity
Creating a culture of honesty and sincerity is critical to your company’s success. This applies to any size company, big or small. To do so, focus on being your authentic self.
As a leader, it is your responsibility to develop and bring this up in your team. If you are being your authentic self with your team members, they will trust and respect you more.
As I transitioned my career from construction to hospitality, it tempted me to hide my past and paint a new picture to my new teammates. For a brief period, I became a person I didn’t know. This never works.
I quickly discovered this was the wrong approach. Some of my team members realized it was only a facade and after I spoke with a few of them, I changed back to being me. Be an authentic leader by demonstrating humility in leadership, and through action. If you are truly yourself, humility will come naturally, and your team will appreciate it!
Learn to control your ego
Learn to control your ego. A humble leader is someone who knows their strengths and weaknesses and acknowledges them both with humility. You can’t solve a problem unless you understand it fully; this includes your own issues. Your ego may delay learning from others – humility does not allow that!
Ego was an enormous problem for me. I quickly pick up skills and learn as I go. In my 20s, I thought this was a good thing. I would often brag about how I learned this and that in a month’s time, thinking it will elevate me in the eyes of others.
It did the complete opposite. I lost many opportunities and lost my way. Good thing I still had a few people that cared for me. They helped me realize and change my ways.
Leadership humility is a powerful quality that I believe will help you and your peers in both business and life. It’s not just humility or ego, it’s about balance – something we all must learn to achieve happiness and success at work!
Create a vision that will serve everyone
As an effective and humble leader, create a vision that serves the common good. To do so, you need to be attentive and combine different demands from people.
There are three qualities that captivating visions must possess to be effective. They must have substance, context, and trustworthiness. As a humble yet effective leader, you can provide all 3.
Have in mind that developing a vision doesn’t require you to do it alone. You can develop it through a collaborative process that involves key stakeholders.
Doing so will help your organization become more sustainable.
Why is humility so important to great leadership
Humility is at the core of all great leadership. While that’s true, it’s something many people find difficult to achieve.
You can start by accepting responsibility for your mistakes, learning from them, and recognizing the worth of others.
It also means knowing when you don’t have all the answers. In order to develop humility as a leader, you need to recognize these qualities about yourself and work on improving them one day at a time.
The humblest leaders I know are those who give credit and stay grounded no matter what happens. They also have an unwavering belief in themselves because of their vision, which serves everyone involved with it.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any other reasons humility is important in leadership? Share them in the comments and I’ll see you in the next article.