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To Be a Good Leader, Practice Humility


In today’s atmosphere of bluster and self-promotion, it’s rare that we receive career advice that doesn’t support a certain amount of self-absorption.


(Photo Credit: Simon Blackley/Flickr)

A recent blog post on HBR Blogs network advises humility instead of narcissism. It’s not the kind of wisdom you’d expect to receive from a pair of CEOs (John Dame and Jeffrey Gedmin run Dame Management Strategies and the Legatum Institute, respectively) but the authors are not operating out of a sense of pure altruism. They claim that humility — defined here as modesty and quiet leadership — can help a company’s bottom line.

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“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),” Dame and Gedmin write. “It may well be why so many (incompetent) men rise ahead of women to leadership positions … 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.”

Among other things, the authors advise leaders to:

1. Know what they don’t know.

2. Resist falling for their own publicity.

3. Never underestimate the competition.

There are more worthwhile tips for developing humility in their post. The bottom line is that leaders need to be prepared to listen more than they speak, act from conviction instead of fear, and be prepared to change.

A tough sell in an era that often values a veneer of confidence over true substance, but good advice for anyone who wants to lead effectively.

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Do you think humility is important for a good leader? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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