Developing Humility as a Leader

Developing Humility as a Leader – Whether we’re looking at business or politics, sports or entertainment, it’s clear we live in an era of self-celebration. Fame is equated with success, and being self-referential has become the norm. As a result we are encouraged to pump ourselves full of alarming self-confidence. Bluster and the alpha instinct, contends Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor of business psychology, often get mistaken for ability and effectiveness (at least for a while). It may well be why so many (incompetent) men rise ahead of women to leadership positions, as Chamorro-Premuzic argued in a recent HBR post.

Yes, we have scores of books, articles, and studies that warn us of the perils of hubris. The word comes from the Greek and means extreme pride and arrogance, generally indicating a loss of connection to reality brought about when those in power vastly overestimate their capabilities. And yes, many of us have also seen evidence that its opposite, humility, inspires loyalty, helps to build and sustain cohesive, productive team work, and decreases staff turnover. Jim Collins had a lot to say about CEOs he saw demonstrating modesty and leading quietly, not charismatically, in his 2001 bestseller Good to Great.

Yet the attribute of humility seems to be neglected in leadership development programs. And to the extent it is considered by managers rising through the ranks, it is often misunderstood. How can we change this?

First, let’s get a few things straight. Humility is not hospitality, courtesy, or a kind and friendly demeanor. Humility has nothing to do with being meek, weak, or indecisive. Perhaps more surprising, it does not entail shunning publicity. Organizations need people who get marketing, including self-marketing, to flourish and prosper. (read more…)

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