The best leaders are humble leaders.
When it comes to successful leadership traits you naturally think of confidence, decisiveness and forcefulness – someone who tells people what to do and how to do it. That style can be useful, especially in time-sensitive, life-or-death situations like medical emergencies or combat. Sports competitions are another area for “tell and yell” leadership.
Research shows that isn’t the most effective style for sustained success. As we’ve highlighted before, the best long-term leaders have high levels of humility and humble resolve.
The best companies – and their leaders – are recognizing this more and more and have built this screen into their hiring practices.
Google’s SVP of People Operations, Lazlo Bock, says humility is one of the traits he’s looking for in new hires. “Your end goal,” explained Bock, “is what can we do together to problem-solve. I’ve contributed my piece, and then I step back.” And it is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute, says Bock-it’s “intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn.”
There’s more insight on this from the folks at Catalyst Research Center for Advancing Leader Effectiveness:
To promote inclusion and reap its rewards, leaders should embrace a selfless leadership style. Here are some concrete ways to get started based on both our current research and our ongoing study of leadership development practices at one company, Rockwell Automation:
Share your mistakes as teachable moments. When leaders showcase their own personal growth, they legitimize the growth and learning of others; by admitting to their own imperfections, they make it okay for others to be fallible, too. We also tend to connect with people who share their imperfections and foibles-they appear more “human,” more like us.
Engage in dialogue, not debates. Another way to practice humility is to truly engage with different points of view. Too often leaders are focused on swaying others and “winning” arguments. Inclusive leaders are humble enough to suspend their own agendas and beliefs In so doing, they not only enhance their own learning but they validate followers’ unique perspectives.
Embrace uncertainty. Ambiguity and uncertainty are par for the course in today’s business environment. So why not embrace them? When leaders humbly admit that they don’t have all the answers, they create space for others to step forward and offer solutions. Followers understand that the best bet is to rely on each other to work through complex, ill-defined problems.
Role model being a “follower.” Inclusive leaders empower others to lead. By reversing roles, leaders not only facilitate employees’ development but they model the act of taking a different perspective, something that is so critical to working effectively in diverse teams.
It takes real courage to be humble and admit uncertainty and doubt. But it can create an openness that people respond to and thrive in.
Have a great week.