Looking to increase your influence as a leader? Try humility

Looking to increase your influence as a leader? Try humility
October 12, 2017

In 2012, two researchers from The University of Colorado, Bradley Owens and David Heckman, published the results of their studying looking at how humility influences leadership and why the most humble leaders are often the most respected.

The two wondered if humility is a contagious trait and if those who followed a humble leader would begin to mirror that humility. The duo also wanted to find out if a team’s humility had any effect on their potential and ability to deliver results?

Basically, these researchers wanted to find out if there is an upside to humility, from leadership on down.

Their results?

Humility is, without a doubt, contagious and spreads through a team easily. But unlike a virus, humility produces a measurable increase in a team’s effectiveness. While I’ve haven’t seen a study of arrogance, I bet it would prove the exact opposite.

There are three interpersonal traits that embody humility:

  • A willingness to view oneself accurately
  • An appreciation of others strengths and contributions, especially when they do not coincide with your views
  • Teachability and openness to new ideas and feedback

This definition doesn’t fit the typical leader.  The latests leadership research suggest that leaders tend to see themselves in a very positive light. In other words, they view themselves better than what they are, causing hesitation when it comes to being open to new ideas, allowing personal growth and yes, their level of humility.

Humility doesn’t make a leader weak, wishy-washy or overly laid back. Ownds and Heckman proved it strengthens influence and inspires the team. Humility is powerful.

Here are my favorite strategies to practice humility:

  • Self Awareness – Practicing self-awareness isn’t always easy, but mastering it is a game changer.  Take time to evaluate your strengths as well as your weaknesses, ask for feedback and be open to changing those behaviors that are not producing the type of inspired work your team deserves to be doing. Check out my blog on this topic here. 
  • Embrace curiosity versus judgment – We tend to be quick to judge others based on our own beliefs, stereotypes and cultural norms. Have you judged anyone lately? I know I have. From the employee who’s too laid back, to the working mother who’s seems so frazzled, to the marijuana-smoking friends of your kids… It’s easy to judge. Judging first is incompatible with inspirational leadership. If you lead you must help, empower and lift others. Have you noticed those who judge almost never empower others and those who empower other almost never judge? Get curious! 
  • Own your mistakes – It’s never fun to admit you’ve messed up. However, if you are a human, chances are you will make errors. When you are open to share your mistakes directly with your team, work on a joint solution and share the lessons learned you will earn their trust fast. 
  • Shine the spotlight on the team – Your success is the result of the work of your team and their success is the result of your leadership. A humble leader recognizes this and makes a conscious effort to never take credit for the team’s success, praises the team in public and in private, pays attention to their strengths and develops their areas of opportunity. One key aspect of humble leadership is letting others shine. 
  • Manage your emotions – This is about moving from a reactive state (anger, exasperation) to a proactive state (curiosity, solution-based thinking). If you’ve ever found yourself holding on to your personality traits – I’m just impulsive; I’ve never been the patient type; I’m all about fairness – it’s time to let those go!  Managing your emotions is no different than creating a new habit, it will take you a few weeks and if you are really committed you’ll soon conquer it.   

“Make People Feel Important Because They Are” – John Addison

Wouldn’t you rather work with the unpretentious than the egotistical? You don’t need to be a bastard to be successful, look around and you’ll see what I mean. Nice guys do not finish last.

Leaders that practice authentic humility are more influential, attract better players, earn their team’s trust and respect.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you have experiences with leaders who were either humble or the complete opposite? Share your experience by leaving a comment below and let’s start a conversation.

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Posted in Blog, Mindset by Mari Pizarro