One of my favorite side effects of becoming more self-aware is that it births humility. When taking inventory of the best leaders I have ever known (or read about), humility always seems to be the thread that links them together. Humility is often mistaken for submissiveness or self-deprecation. Although both of those could be traits of humility, they are not humility. A humble person can also be bold and confident.
Humility comes from understanding one’s worth as being not greater than or less than others. A humble leader understands her strengths, weaknesses, points of power, and vulnerabilities, and how she can use all these things to collaborate with others to accomplish the mission. Here are five traits to spot in a humble leader:
- They collaborate. Understanding strengths and weaknesses allow a leader to acknowledge and embrace his interdependence with others rather than believing he can achieve success by himself. Instead of becoming overly competitive with their peers, they recognize that others can do some things better than they can and seek to collaborate.
- They encourage and extend grace. They acknowledge the humanity of others by embracing their strengths and weaknesses as well. They affirm and appreciate the talents of others and seek opportunities they can use their talent to shine. When mistakes do happen, a humble leader will help others learn from setbacks so they can grow instead of blaming or belittling.
- They sponsor others. With rank comes privilege. A sponsor is someone who uses this privilege to advance and develop those who don’t. They will share their network, platform, status, and other opportunities to ensure others are rising with them. Another’s success is not a threat to them, but rather a reflection of their success.
- They are curious. Humble leaders are aware that they don’t know everything, so they remain curious and open to learning from every situation and person they encounter. They ask lots of questions but always with a tone of genuine interest and wonder rather than accusation. They desire to know what others think and believe.
- They have integrity. Humble leaders do not overinflate or undervalue their accomplishments but rather seek to build an authentic reputation. They are also quick to admit mistakes so they can make things right. As Brené Brown says, they know it’s more important to “get it right, not to be right.”
Do you desire to be a humble leader? The first step is awareness.
Which of these five resonates with how you behave?
Which traits do you struggle to embody?
In answering both of these questions, what specific actions can you take today to align with these traits?