Humility Matters: 9 Ways Confident Leaders Remain Humble

September 4, 2012 — 32 Comments

“What the world needs now is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left.”

-Oscar Levant

iStock 000005641615XSmall 300x199 Humility Matters:  9 Ways Confident Leaders Remain HumbleWe want to follow people with confidence, charisma and a strong sense of direction.  Confidence inspires, attracts, excites and ignites.  We think, “they sure do seem to know what they’re doing…”  And yet, I have observed that confidence, without humility, can be dangerous.  I have seen it significantly limit a leader’s effectiveness.  They stay their course, but may miss important input.  People may follow, but not with their full spirit.  Truly confident leaders are secure enough to embrace and share their humility.  In the long run, their humility makes them stronger.

Michael Carroll describes the “talent of humility,” in his book The Mindful Leader.  He shares that when leaders understand they are part of a much bigger scene that is not fully within their control, they are free to show up more human.  It’s from that humility, that they can confidently show up to do the best work possible.  They offer more of their whole selves to the moment.

“Humility is how we express our delight– how we appreciate the simple pleasures and great joys.  And equally, humility is how we open to life’s inconveniences and devastating tragedies.  When we are humble, no experience is beneath us, no colleague is unworthy, no moment does not merit our full attention.  Because we are humble, we do not pick and chose– savoring only the tasty parts of life and leaving the rest for others.  We are wiling to experience the entire situation directly and work with every detail.”

I have been observing the leaders I admire who seem to striving for confident humility.  Here’s 9 things I’m picking up.  Please share your thoughts on the 10th.

9 Ways Confident Leaders Express Humility

  1. Understand they don’t have all the answers– and search for more
  2. Attract those who will tell the truth– and be able to hear them
  3. Reflect on their own leadership– and seek out change as needed
  4. Read about other approaches– and adjust
  5. Seek out mentors– from all levels
  6. Share more about themselves and create connections
  7. Seek to learn about the people they work with– and see them as people
  8. Try out new behaviors and ask for feedback
  9. Take stands against the politically correct choice
  10. ???  (please share your thoughts)

How have you seen confident leaders express their humility?

 

32 responses to Humility Matters: 9 Ways Confident Leaders Remain Humble

  1. Hi Karin

    I think my no. 10 would be “Consistently let people experience you just as you are, and treat everyone the same”.

    Humility for me is the absence of ego, and expressing it by being thankful for, and generous with, the gifts you have to offer, for the greater good.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment, and for the daily leadership inspiration you offer.

  2. Karin,

    I think great leaders surround themselves with very talented people who also have leadership qualities. Just because someone isn’t a manager doesn’t mean they can’t be a leader. I’ve seen some very high-quality administrative assistants that were not managers, but they definitely were leaders.

    I believe it takes humility to surround yourself with people who are this good and allow them to lead when it is best to do that. I think it’s a big mistake for leaders to believe that they should always be the ones who are leading in every situation. While I believe one person should be in charge, I also think that you are holding great employees back if you don’t allow them to lead from time to time.

    Also, I’m not sure if you have a Kindle or not, but I wanted to let you know that the Kindle version of my book “The Supermanager: A Short Story About the Secrets of an Extremely Successful Manager” will be free this Friday and Saturday on Amazon.

    I wanted to let you know this in case you have a Kindle (or read books with the Kindle app) and wanted to check it out.

    • Glen, thanks so much for the great insights. It is exciting to see your book coming out on kindle… and even more exciting that there is a change to get it free this weekend. I look forward to reading it, and I hope my readers will as well.

  3. Since Mac shared a wonderful #10, my #11 is being able to admit you’ve made a mistake. The “know it all” attitude can hurt communication if the person is wrong and still will not own the mistake/error.

  4. Jamie, That is a great #11 and sometimes a very tough one. I always admire leaders who admit when the are wrong. Thanks so much for joining the conversation.

  5. Karen,

    Loved your article! Confidence with humility is really true leadership. Your list is pretty complete. I’d add that confident leaders express humility when they truly believe that they can learn from everyone and are willing to do so.

    Regards,

    Robert

  6. Robert. Thanks so much for your kind words and for joining the conversation. I really like your add… I learn so much every day from my team…

  7. Karin,

    Thank you for the insightful read.

    #10 Humble leaders openly express their appreciation for a job well done no matter how seemingly insignificant the job may seem. They often use words like ‘thank you’, ‘great job’, ‘I could not do such a good job’, ‘wonderful’, ‘you are a star’ and my favorite ‘you have just raised the bar for all of us’

    #11 A humble leader knows when to step back and allow a subordinate to lead his own team. He often creates such opportunities to follow and in doing so allows his team members to learn, to grow and to lead with confidence and humility.

  8. Richard Ziert March 1, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    What appears to be humility to some is a horse of a different color to others. Nobody will ever please everyone all the time. However, humility is the quality of inner being that can not be fake. Those that fake it are soon found out. Humility is confidence personified. The mere fact that anyone comes here to write about humility could indicate the writers haven’t found Nirvana as yet – so to speak (myself included – and I feel we will never rightly find it). If I were to put good humility in its simplest form it means to put others first better than 80% of the time in everything we do – except for the basics of staying alive. But even then there’s the quality of “taking a bullet” for someone else, maybe even someone we don’t know personally, and especially when we won’t get nor want an earthly reward for doing so. Humility, like integrity, is doing the right thing by others when nobody is looking. The almost miraculous thing about all that I’ve written here is that if accomplished, the earthly rewards come anyway.

    • Richard, I love that “humility is the quality of inner being that cannot be faked.” Thanks so much for adding that. I really appreciate the article you sent me as well. Building collective knowledge… so much fun and so much good.

  9. Humility arising of knowledge only exhibits itself in the thought, actions and reactions of a true leader…and humility with firmness alone can sustain ….it’s not me, but it was said by the author of Arthasastra (literal meaning Economics , but it is about how to lead an Organisation)…written more than 2500 years ago ( 600 BC)..I consider this book as most moder treatise on management and leadership…and Kautilya as modern a management Guru as any…anand Kumar

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  11. Humility allows for “credit where credit is due”; hence, the leader acknowledges the merits and accomplishments and assistance of others, so people will be more accepting and tolerant, more likely to confer authority to the leader. Humility allows for more influence, less resistance.

    Conversely, ‘Absence-of-Humility’ actually spawns enemies, propagates resentment, jealousy, resistance, criticism, competition, or even just plain withholding of the conferring-of-authority that is the engine of leadership, the very foundation of a leader being a leader.

    If people don’t confer authority, then leadership is developing elsewhere. Lech Walesa showed us exactly that, when people refused to confer authority to Moscow, and leadership transferred.

    • Michael, thanks so much for your insightful comment. I agree… lack of humility or sharing of credit is so dangerous. I hope you will continue to add your insights to the ongoing conversation at LGL.

  12. Great post Karin. My #10 would be: Understand your success is a blessing. Although leaders work hard, they also need to understand their success is a result of many factors beyond their control.

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