7 Ways Humility Influences Leadership

If asked to describe the traits of successful leaders, many people will use words such as powerful, charismatic, enthusiastic, and visionary. These are aspects of leadership that take center stage – showing up in a very visual and emotional way. But, one of the most important traits of a great leader is often overlooked because it’s hovering unseen in the background – humility.

To be the type of leader that others willingly follow, leaders need the kind of depth that only comes from self-reflection and personal growth – two things that require a heavy dose of humility.

Here are 7 other ways that humility influences leadership:

1. Humble leaders are inclusive.

It’s impossible to be simultaneously humble and view yourself as better than, or separate from, those you lead. Humble leaders are welcoming and open to hearing the thoughts, ideas and opinions of others. It’s not that they’re looking for the approval of others; rather they genuinely believe that other people have thoughts, talents, and abilities that might contribute to the team’s overall success.

In short, they believe that no one person has all the answers, especially themselves.

2. Humble leaders are other-centered.

Humble leaders tend to be viewed as part of the team rather than as a distant, powerful person looming over the team. This does not mean that humble leadership equals managing every detail. As I’ve just stated, humble leaders know they don’t know everything.

Being others-center simply means having a genuine concern for the well-being of their team members. It means using positive acknowledgement as a motivating force, rather than accusing, demeaning, and blaming.

3. Humble leaders are accountable to others.

One of the defining characteristics of humility is the ability to admit when you’re wrong. It’s nearly impossible for others to be honest and open with leaders who view themselves as never wrong and immune to making mistakes. This creates an oppressive culture, where team members are afraid to take risks because “wrong” = “bad”.

We all make mistakes, of course. But the way our leaders approach the handling of mistakes has a significant impact on how innovative and creative their team will be. A culture that fears mistakes is not likely to come up with revolutionary ideas.

For leaders to handle the mistakes of others in a productive, positive way, they must first be accountable to others and open about their own missteps – actions that require a heavy dose of humility.

4. Humble leaders are composed.

Humility requires one to understand that not everything is within our control, and that’s ok. Once this fact is accepted, it’s easier to accept ambiguity instead of struggling for the need to control and insisting that everything be perfectly anticipated or predicted.

In other words, humble leaders embody the composure and wisdom necessary to know when to and wait and see how uncertain factors fall into place before making decisions.

5. Humble leaders believe in personal growth.

Can you even develop humility without being first invested in personal growth? I don’t see how. Humility doesn’t always come easy because its developed only when we are willing to examine where we are failing. This kind of open attitude towards one’s own shortcomings has the effect of encouraging others to do the same, contributing to a culture in which the capacity to succeed is ever expanding.

6. Humble leaders value independence.

Micromanagement and distrust is a surefire way to kill morale and high-quality performance. Humble leaders believe the best thing they can do is hire good people, provide them with the training and resources they need to do their jobs, and then get out of their way and let them do it. When people are given room to excel – the freedom to use their strengths and expertise in a meaningful way – it creates the kind of high-energy culture that is nearly always required for long-term success.

7. Humble leaders are optimistic

Optimism is a requirement for successful leadership because to drive success, you must first believe that success is possible. Like independence, optimism is another contributor to high-energy teams – the kind of teams where innovation is a result of the overall optimism about the future.

Optimism is catching and powerful. The better team members perform, the more optimistic everyone feels about success. And, when people feel optimistic about success, they are more likely to perform at their best.

As Ralf Marston said, “Being positive in a negative situation is not naïve. It’s leadership.”

About Dan Finerty

Dan Finerty is the Director of Marketing at the Mountain West Credit Union Association, a Credit Union champion, a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), and an award-winning marketer. Dan has over 14 years of marketing experience in communications, retail, packaged goods, and, of course, Credit Unions. He believes that Credit Unions have an incredible story to tell and works with some of the brightest Credit Union professionals to help promote Credit Unions to the public. Dan holds two Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing and in Management. He is also a swell guy.


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