What makes someone a good leader? Opinions about how to answer this question are as diverse as leaders themselves. In the end, there is no one-size-fits-all formula.
Leadership is both an art and a science. Of course, there are some traits, like good listening skills, that benefit all leaders. However, leaders also need to develop and hone their own style.
The problem is that our culture gives us some preconceived notions about leadership that deserve to be questioned. For example, are confidence and ambition really so inexorably linked to good leadership? There are actually many reasons to believe that it’s better to cultivate a humble attitude and approach. Here’s why:
1. Humble leaders help others shine.
There is a big difference between a manager and a leader. Good leaders inspire through cultivating a spirit of humility. By stepping back, they allow others to step forward. The ability to help others shine is an essential part of being a great leader; it’s almost its definition.
2. Humility encourages others to share their perspectives openly.
It’s a little bit easier to talk with a humble person than with someone who’s arrogant and trying to shine a light on their own accomplishments all the time. For this reason, humble leaders are often more approachable than others. The people around them may find it easier to share their ideas or discuss a problem. That kind of openness improves communication in both directions.
Our culture often rewards traits like ambition and confidence. But smart leaders embrace humility.
3. It helps leaders listen better.
Good leaders must be good listeners. They need to have their finger on the pulse of the organization, team, etc., at all times. Leaders have to listen well in order to benefit from the perspective of those around them. Humility helps with this. When you’re not so busy trying to prove yourself to others, it’s easier to give others your attention and really tune in. Just being conscious of the innate value of humility in situations like this is helpful. It’s a good place to start.
4. It helps leaders to be self-critical and make improvements.
Good leaders take the time to self-reflect, and that’s a trait that’s a little easier to embrace alongside a healthy dose of humility. It’s essential to keep growing and improving in order to progress in one’s career. When leaders are humble, they’re more willing and able to be self-critical. They’re able to face their weaknesses and to work hard to improve upon them.
5. Humility helps leaders give others due credit.
It’s worth restating that a very important part of being a good leader is helping others shine. Another reason that humble leaders do this well is that they’re happy to give credit where credit is due. They can see the strengths of others (in part because they’re not so hung up on trying to prove themselves all the time) and they are happy to highlight them when appropriate. This, in turn, encourages improved productivity, job satisfaction and retention. Additionally, humility encourages humility. And, that can go a long way to improve the work experience for everyone, and therefore business overall.
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