Which traits come to your mind when you think about successful leaders?
Intelligent? Assertive? Charismatic? Confident?
How about humility?
A survey revealed that humility in CEOs led to increased team collaboration, more flexibility in developing strategies, and better performance overall.
Let’s discuss what this virtue means in leadership and how it contributes to better performance.
What Does Humility Mean in Leadership?
According to the American Psychological Association, humility is characterized by an accurate sense of one’s worth and accomplishments and low self-focus. It also reflects in the acknowledgment of one’s weaknesses, mistakes, imperfections, and limitations.
In the context of leadership, humility is often misunderstood as being meek or submissive. But this is far from the truth.
Many successful and influential leaders have exhibited humility in their leadership styles. This shows humility is not about being a pushover but having the confidence and courage to lead others without arrogance or a sense of superiority.
Humility is about recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and being willing to admit your mistakes and learn from them. Only those with high emotional intelligence can listen to and consider the perspectives of others before making a decision.
Humility is best exemplified in how a leader treats those working under them. This attribute makes a leader respectful of other people’s time, opinions, and expertise. This is why humble leaders are willing to delegate responsibility and recognize the accomplishments of others. They are not afraid to ask for help if needed because they understand that no person can do it alone.
Humility in leadership is also about having the courage to admit when you are wrong and being willing to change course if needed. No one likes a leader who is stubborn and unyielding; it creates an environment of fear and mistrust. Humble leaders are open to feedback and criticism. More importantly, they don’t hesitate to adjust their strategies and tactics as they move forward.
All in all, humility is a sign of strength and wisdom. It shows that a leader is confident enough in themselves and their abilities to not feel insecure or challenged.
7 Ways Humility Improves Leadership Performance
Leaders who practice humility and self-awareness often have higher-performing teams than those led by overconfident, ego-driven individuals. This is because humility allows leaders to listen to feedback, take responsibility for their actions, and foster an open and collaborative environment where all members can contribute to achieving shared goals.
Humility allows a leader to see themselves more clearly including their own weaknesses. This empowers that leader to hire people better than they are. Humility makes space for team members to bring their talents and strengths without the leader being threatened.
As such, humility is not only a virtue but a competitive advantage for leaders. Here are a few ways it improves leadership performance:
- It Allows for Open Communication
Leadership is not a one-way street—it’s about collaboration and mutual understanding.
Humility makes leaders aware that there may be gaps in their knowledge. This realization manifests as a willingness to hear others out and be more receptive to feedback and criticism from team members.
This openness allows for a two-way dialogue that helps the leader gain insight into the team’s needs and goals while encouraging employees to share their input without hesitation.
Leaders who are humble are also more likely to understand and respect different perspectives. When an environment of respect and equality is established, people are more likely to feel inspired to come up with creative ideas. This creates a safe, stimulating space for individual learning and growth.
- It Promotes Collaboration
Humility also encourages collaboration among team members. Leaders who practice humility are more likely to ask for feedback or support from their team members and use it to make decisions that benefit the organization as a whole.
These leaders never assume that they have all the answers or that only they can know the best way forward. Instead, they look for areas where they might need outside input or help in order to yield greater outcomes.
In addition to recognizing their weaknesses, humble leaders make a conscious effort to work with others to overcome those limitations. When everybody pitches in with their ideas and opinions, the team enjoys increased innovation, better productivity and performance, and a more pleasant working environment.
- It Encourages Self-Reflection and Continuous Learning
Acknowledging errors can be difficult, especially for those in a position of authority, but it’s key to growing as a person and building trust with the team.
Humility allows leaders to reflect on their choices and learn from their mistakes to unlock their true potential. This minimizes the chances of the same mistakes being repeated in the future.
Humble leaders believe there’s always a chance to learn more and expand their horizons. They never over-inflate their knowledge or abilities. Instead, they are always looking for opportunities to learn new things and aren’t ashamed to admit limited awareness of a topic.
- It Helps Gain Influence
Humility makes a leader more relatable and approachable to their team members, forging a culture of belonging and inclusion.
When people feel heard and respected working under a leader who underrates themselves, they are more drawn to them. In other words, they are more likely to respect a humble leader than an overconfident one who thinks of themselves as superior.
Thus, a humble leader gains influence and can positively impact each member through their advice, support, and guidance.
- It Fosters Trust Among Team Members
Humble leaders don’t chase perfection because they know they are not flawless and nobody can be. Hence, they have realistic expectations from team members, which brings a sense of compassion and understanding to their leadership style.
Moreover, humble leaders embrace vulnerability and don’t shy away from admitting if they don’t understand something.
Watching their leader set such an example, the employees enjoy knowing they won’t be judged for making mistakes or asking questions. They get ample space to learn and grow at their own pace.
All of this contributes to fostering lasting trust among the team members. Having complete faith in their leader, these employees are more likely to follow their lead and be confident in their decisions.
- It Makes Leaders More Human
Humility shows that a leader is a real person rather than a figurehead. This is because humble leaders know who they are and which areas they can improve. Instead of trying to act like they know everything, are invincible, or have never made a mistake, they stay authentic and open to change.
By demonstrating that they are willing to learn and grow just like everyone else, humble leaders create a more positive and candid working environment.
- It Improves Decision-Making
Humility in leadership is also essential for making informed decisions. By listening to team members and considering their insights, ideas, and perspectives, leaders can make well-rounded, innovative decisions that benefit the team as a whole.
Humility also allows leaders to be more flexible. Rather than sticking to rigid plans, they are willing to consider different solutions and options and modify agendas mid-way. This can help avoid costly mistakes and ensure the team is going down the best route to solve a problem or achieve a goal.
How to Be a More Humble Leader
Being a humble leader shows your team that you’re open to learning, capable of making mistakes, and willing to take feedback in order to win as a team.
If you’re not born with this virtue, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a humble leader. You’ll have to work to infuse this characteristic into your leadership style.
Here are a few tips to help you practice humility in leadership:
- Listen to Your Team and Be Open to Their Ideas
As a leader, it’s important to listen to your team. Not only will you be able to gain valuable insight and learn new things, but your employees will also be more likely to listen to you in return.
Humility demands you to be open to considering the ideas and suggestions of your team, even if they may not be perfect. Exchange information and discuss possibilities in detail because two (or more) heads are better than one!
- Acknowledge Your Mistakes and Take Responsibility for Your Actions
Leaders are human, too, and are capable of making mistakes. It’s important to be humble and acknowledge when you have made a mistake.
Take responsibility for your errors and learn from them instead of blaming one of the team members. This will show that you’re willing to admit when you’re wrong and will help create a team culture of ownership and responsibility.
This will create a culture where team members can take more risks and be more innovative since the culture permits that kind of learning.
- Show Appreciation for Your Team
Show your team that you appreciate them and what they do. Acknowledge the hard work they put into projects and thank them for their efforts whenever you get a chance.
Also, never take credit for someone else’s idea or hard work or shame anyone when they make a mistake. This will help create trust and respect between you and your team and motivate each member to put in their best effort in the future.
- Lead by Example
As a leader, you should be a role model for your team. Show them that you are capable of humility by being humble and respectful in your actions.
Value others and their opinions, and be polite and open to ideas and criticism. More importantly, ask questions when you don’t understand something instead of acting like you have all the answers.
Additionally, prioritize your team over everything else, so you can teach others to do the same.
The Bottom Line
Leadership is not about being the loudest or most powerful person in the room. It’s about empowering those around you and inspiring others to take the desired action.
Humility is an important trait for all leaders, as it allows them to be open to new ideas and experiences while fostering an environment of trust and respect. A humble leader is a great asset to any team, but unfortunately, humility doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
As a leader, you must take the time to reflect on your behavior and how it affects your team. Are you humble enough to admit when you don’t know something, to take ownership of your mistakes, and to listen to your team?
Doing so will go a long way toward creating a successful team and becoming an influential leader. Know what humility in leadership looks like and practice it daily using the tips above to reach your full potential.