Rick Warren once said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
In a business world where ego has often been confused with strength and vision, proposing humility as a leadership trait has, in the past, been difficult to accept. Yet today, we realize that in order to lead well and make impact, bringing out the best in others by putting their interests and the interests of the company first is paramount.
This requires leaving your ego at the door.
Top-down leadership is, in fact, outdated and counterproductive. In the business world, we have witnessed terrible situations where this approach has gotten out of hand, and ego has given way to hurting many people on a large scale: Martin Wintercorn and the Volkswagen scandal, Hisao Tanaka of Toshiba, Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharamaceuticals… (For more about this, see my article “Beware of Hubris Syndrome.”)
Through these situations and many other lessons learned, leading with humility is paramount.
Today, even when a company’s organizational chart still resembles a pyramid, the roles and responsibilities throughout the enterprise call for leadership at every level.
Ownership and autonomy are fostered up, down, and sideways throughout the enterprise. Accountability is still king, but the difference now is that it is mutual. Shared decision-making is embraced. A culture where the people come first naturally produces best outcomes because it promotes in the workforce the feelings of trust, purpose, motivation, and engagement.
Since humility creates the type of environment that is needed for the organization of the future, we must intentionally incorporate it into leading. Being selfless with the larger agenda of leading an organization and primarily concerned with the well-being of the organization and the people in it is what works.
Here are three ways your own leadership can become even more impactful with humility.
1. Stop micromanaging, and empower your people.
Where are you hoarding a “top-down” attitude in your leadership?
Do you find yourself reticent to delegate because others might not do it as well as you? This is an indication that you are not empowering your team – and this means you are short-changing the company. I’ve coached many executives and business owners who fear letting go. If this is you, come up with a plan to mentor so that you can effectively support the present as well as the future.
2. Listen and learn to model personal growth.
Keep yourself on an honest and supportive growth journey by joining or forming a group of like-minded leaders who are willing to share, introspect, encourage, and hold each other accountable.
Be open to the ideas and perspectives of others in your company and receive feedback as a gift and not a criticism. Modeling your own growth allows others to embrace their own development opportunities and fosters a strong and productive learning culture.
3. Admit your mistakes and course-correct.
Are you avoiding having to deal with a poor strategic move? Perhaps you have hired a key individual who has turned out to be toxic. Or it may be that you have turned the company’s attention to a new initiative that is damaging its ability to deliver services or products to your current customers.
If you are sending out messages such as, “That’s just the way he is – just work as best you can,” or “Once we get through this, things should settle down,” you are modeling avoidance.
Instead, model accountability to them and the organization. Decide on a plan to course-correct, and implement it. Show your people that it is human to make mistakes – and that it is true leadership to deal with them and learn from them.
Humility is not being servile or weak.
It is being strong and confident enough to keep your focus on the bigger purpose and all that goes into making this a success. And that is true leadership.
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Learn the two vital parts to trust and how they can help you become a more highly effective leader.
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Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.