Humility in leadership conjures vivid images in leaders’ minds. The images seem to fall into opposite camps: indecisive wimpiness or non-arrogant self-confidence. It’s fair to say that if your image of humility in leadership is one of weakness… then you are not likely to strive for
On the other hand if you see humility in leadership as the self-confident strength to lead others to shine, you are on your way or almost there.
What if you want to move from seeing humility in leadership as weakness to embracing its strength? Or perhaps you as a leader already embrace it but your leader doesn’t.
I’ve walked this journey with many leaders. So let’s walk it now.
Humility in Leadership: Myths & Fears
Change involves owning your own fears for they can either create myths or extend themselves. What common fear-based myths, stop your growth to humility in leadership?
Fear of being a weak leader.
New leaders, transitional leaders, and long time leaders all know they have strengths and weaknesses. Those who sense their own weaknesses more intensely than their strengths, often fear being seen as a weak leader. Will people see them as too nice to lead? From this fear comes the myth that humility in leadership is indecisive weakness.
Fear of being disrespected.
Like dominoes, one fear based myth leads to another. Leaders who believe the myth that humility is indecisive weakness, fear being disrespected as a wimp. They then embrace the myth that being a strong non-humble leader builds respect. Certainly, there are many real problems that develop under weak leaders including bullying among teams, power struggles, culture of blame, finger pointing, low morale, and even chaos. Ironically, the same trouble can develop with non-humble leaders. I have seen both — over and over and over.
Fear of entanglement.
This fear is often subconscious and hidden from leaders’ awareness. There are personality types as well as past experiences that drive leaders to avoid true connection with those they lead. They see connection as entanglement and loss of objectivity. They then attach this fear to humility in leadership, and form a false conclusion: Humble leaders lose their objectivity and can’t handle tough conversations with employees. Humility does not cause a loss of objectivity. In fact, it strengthens it. Humility keeps you in learning mode and objectivity comes through knowledge.
Myth: Humble leaders lose their objectivity and can’t handle tough conversations with employees.” ~Kate Nasser #leadership #peopleskills Tweet this!
Humility in Leadership: Truths
Humility elevates purpose above the personal.
Leaders’ humility guides all toward the greater goals instead of personal whimsy. It balances the empathy to connect with the objectivity to achieve.
Humility celebrates all talents encouraging all to contribute for success.
Leaders’ humility naturally inspires, for it highlights everyone’s abilities instead of just the leaders’ strengths.
Humility removes the veneer and shows leaders’ greatness.
Humility is transparent. It shows who and what leaders are. Team members trust this authenticity and engage without the distraction of hidden agendas and politics.
Humility is stronger than any yell!
Leaders who check their egos at the door have far greater influence. Humility keeps leaders listening. Humility replaces the ego — the target of conflict — with “we go“. This inspires contribution and models ideal teamwork behaviors. Conversely, it is always a problem when dominating solo type leaders demand teamwork.
Humility smooths resistance to change and growth.
Humility fosters continuous learning. It allows and encourages everyone to learn from mistakes for the benefit of all. This is a prerequisite to change and growth — the secret to business success. In fact, companies fail when the market changes and they don’t. Humility in leadership feeds a culture of learning and flexibility. No one method, nor practice, nor view, nor person is cast as best. The goal is to listen, perform, learn, and succeed.
Humility in Leadership: What Ifs
What if you as a leader practice humility yet the leader you report to sees it as weakness?
- Find out specifically what that leader sees as weak? Small changes in your behavior can close the gap between you and your leader without abandoning humility.
- Consider what if any cultural and personality differences there are between you and your leader. These differences impact how people view behaviors and describe their impact.
What if you as a leader practice humility and the teams see you as weak?
- Ask them where and when do they need more strength from you? Humility is not generally the culprit. Most likely there are stressful situations that you are not seeing. Remember humility is not abandonment. Assist where they need help.
- Engage team members and discuss your leadership style. Leadership evolves and their expectations may be ahead of your evolution. Be open to learning from them.
What if you as a leader are being told to develop some humility?
- Write down how this makes you feel before you respond else you might react defensively. Then ask for specific examples of where your behavior needs to change.
- Review the fears and myths noted above to guide your journey of growth. Have you worked with strong humble leaders? What did you learn from them? Have a mentor or coach help you evolve and refine your leadership style.
Humility in leadership is not a label nor a fixed set of behaviors. It is a mindset of inclusion and a model of continuous learning for success. It honors and engages all. It builds tremendous trust and sustains all especially in tough times of change.
So we’ve come quite a distance. What other what ifs shall we discuss?