Why Humility is a Leadership Strength in Business

humble sitting on a dock

When we think of corporate leadership strength, is the classic persona of self-reliance and arrogance actually all wrong?  Is it possible that there’s even more strength in displays of humility? Humility may not be an obvious way to climb a corporate ladder, but it is an overlooked leadership strength that is essential to workplace culture.

Be Humble to Be Strong

A humble leader.  It’s not an oxymoron. The Journal of Management conducted a survey of more than 100 computer industry companies and found that “when a more humble CEO leads a firm, its top management team (TMT) is more likely to collaborate, share information, jointly make decisions, and possess a shared vision.”  By being humble, leaders can create a culture of team, where individuals feel safe and empowered.  The University of Washington’s Foster School of Business conducted a study where employees rated their supervisors.  Here, managers who were rated as more humble had subordinates who were better engaged and less likely to leave. 

Humility is defined as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance.” It does not mean putting oneself down.  It means setting yourself aside to empower others.  A good way to think about the power of humility is to think about its opposite quality: arrogance.  How does a team react to an arrogant leader?  How does a team feel when its leader takes credit for his own personal gain?   

Practical Ways to Show Humility in the Workplace                                 

Showing humility does not mean being weak.  It is not the only way to be an effective leader, but consider its powerful effect on employee culture.

  • A humble employee or leader actively listens to others and shows respect by acknowledging their ideas.  In turn, other employees feel comfortable enough to respond and share even more ideas. This fosters a culture of rapport and respect.
  • A humble employee or leader regularly shows appreciation for others.  “Humble leaders seek out ways to raise up members of their team. They don’t need to take all the glory for themselves and trample others as they step up the ladder. They don’t need sycophants to support their positions,” says Jason Richmond of Forbes.
  • A humble leader will pitch in with the workload. 
  • A humble leader or employee does not think he/she is the most important person in the company and displays everyday leadership qualities.  Even if a person is NOT in a leadership position, humility means he recognizes that others may have a better way of doing things or has ideas that are stronger than his. And if ego allows, a leader welcomes differences and celebrates them. “Leaders who practice humility by asking employees for their opinions, accepting ideas for how to better serve customers and clients and acknowledging team members who have made a difference can make an employee feel empowered and validated. In turn, when employees have these positive feelings about their leadership and the company where they work, they tend to be more satisfied with their role and the organization they represent,” says Jamie Birt of Indeed.  

Hiring a Candidate with Humble Leadership Qualities

When interviewing, it is expected that candidates talk about themselves as individuals, but hiring managers can look for persons who also display a sense of modesty.  Does the candidate ever talk about the team and use the pronoun “we” vs “me”?  If he/she is interviewing for a leadership position, how are they speaking about the teams they led or were a part of?

Artemis Consultants helps companies hire employees who will be strong leaders, but are humble enough to foster a culture of respect. We take a personalized approach to fill many different types of positions in sales, marketing/ analytics, IT, and executive leadership.

-Written exclusively for Artemis Consultants by Business Content Writer Mellody Melville

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