What do you picture when you think of a great business leader, You might use words like “bold,” “strong personality,” “charisma,” “self-confidence” and “visionary genius.” Business leaders are often seen in the spotlight and talking to the news cameras. They stand out in front, driving the agenda in a highly public and visible way. You might assume that great business leaders have to be aggressive and attention-seeking. And that they must act like a superstar. Even to the point of sometimes being a bully or egomaniac who steps over people who are in your way. You might think you don’t have what it takes to be a great business leader without these things. But what if the truth about what makes a great business leader is more mundane?
According to research cited by the Wall Street Journal, one of the most important leadership qualities of effective managers is humility. Do you want to inspire good teamwork, fast learning and high individual performance among your team? Then it’s best to be a humble leader.
What Humble Leadership Looks Like
What does humble leadership mean, and how can you bring a spirit of humility to your business? Here are a few bits of “humble advice.”
Pay Attention to Your Own Weaknesses
Humble leaders tend to have a strong level of self-awareness for their own weaknesses and vulnerabilities. They don’t beat themselves up about it, but they know that they’re not always going to be the smartest person in the room, and they don’t expect to be the best at everything. When leaders understand their weaknesses, they can be better at delegating, at bringing in outside expertise, at exploring different perspectives, and at avoiding impulsive decisions.
Ask for Advice (and Listen)
Humble leaders aren’t afraid to ask for advice, and more importantly, they listen to the advice. They are eager to hear from diverse stakeholders and voices from all levels of the organization; they don’t assume that good ideas and smart solutions can only come from the executive ranks.
Delegate to Others
Humble leaders don’t micromanage, and they don’t take on more than they can handle. They trust their team to do their jobs, and they are eager to delegate tasks and create new opportunities for others. The humblest leaders tend to exude a sense of calm — instead of being overwhelmed, they are quietly, capably captaining a ship with lots of moving parts and all hands on deck. But because they’re able to delegate, these leaders can move calmly through the storms around them — they have time and mental space to evaluate their high-level strategic options and guard against risks and threats.
Share the Credit, Hoard the Blame
Humble leaders are eager to share the credit. They’re constantly praising their team and deflecting praise off of themselves and onto their people. Humble leaders are happy to see their employees get promoted or even recruited by other organizations; they consider it a compliment to their own leadership skills when good people rise through the ranks, and they are happy to create a successful culture that nurtures and develops top talent.
On the flip side, humble leaders are also eager to take more than their share of the blame when things go wrong or when well-intentioned plans don’t work out. They take responsibility for their team, good and bad.
Put the Team First
In all that they do, humble leaders elevate the interests of the team above their own self-interest and ego. They’re more concerned with building a great culture than winning an award or seeing their name in the news headlines. They are happy when their employees are happy. They feel proud when their employees win accolades. And they see the team and the culture that they are building around them as more important than their own individual success – they believe that if you know how to hire, develop, and retain the right people, and surround them with the right teamwork, support and encouragement, that winning culture will deliver more value for the company than any individual achievement.
Humble leaders succeed because talented people want to keep working for them. There’s an old saying: “people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.” If you’re worried about losing talented employees from your company, if you want to know how to create better teamwork and higher productivity, if you want to know what it takes to truly be a great boss…it might be time to take a closer look at your own attitudes and behaviors. How can you be humbler? If you can learn to make some adjustments in your temperament and management style, and run your business as a quieter, calmer, more supportive place to work, you will likely find that the long-term rewards outweigh the short-term efforts.
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