What does a humble leader do?


Humility is a virtue. Perhaps you’re aware of the importance of being a humble leader. But what makes it important, and how do you know if you are one?

Why humility is important

Being humble is important because it takes the focus of attention away from you and puts it right where it belongs: on others and the greater good of the organization. Humility is marked by an open mind and heart. A humble leader is approachable and genuinely cares about others. A humble leader wants the greater good to be served and works tirelessly to assure that those who are responsible for the work are taken care of, encouraged, and rewarded.

These things are means to an end, whether the organization is a steward of tax dollars, is serving the underserved, or is responsible for making a profit. All of which, by the way, the humble leader wants as well.

Others may know it

The best way to know if you are humble is to gage others’ observations. What might others see you doing if you are genuinely humble?

Listening deeply to understand others’ viewpoints. Humble leaders know that they might learn something from others.

Willingness to “not know” all of the answers. Humble leaders have a penchant for staying silent when those around them are smarter than they are.

Asking what you can do better on a regular basis. And then doing it. Humble leaders are always looking for ways to improve the way they lead.

Including others when important organizational decisions need to be made. Humble leaders know that they don’t know everything, and getting input from others might make for more effective decisions. They also know that including others gains buy-in to decisions.

Giving full credit to others for the great work they’ve done. Humble leaders don’t take credit, they give it away to those who most deserve it.

Not taking themselves too seriously when errors are made. Humble leaders accept blame when they should, but they also make light of themselves when it’s appropriate. Then they get back on that horse and ride.

Not taking the hierarchy to heart no matter where they are in the organization. Humble leaders know that the mission and vision are more important than where they stand and that it “takes a village” to achieve the organizational mission and vision.

Being awestruck at the potential in others when they are given full reign to “do it their way”. Humble leaders know there isn’t one right way to get the job done, and they are willing to let go and let others get it done in the way that works best for them.

Deferring judgment when they need to consider all of the angles. Humble leaders aren’t quick to judge; they know that they need to look at all of the explanations before declaring judgment; they want to minimize damage and make sure they make the best decisions for the company, the organization, and the people involved.

So now, stop and think. Are you a humble leader?




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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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