The world is full of leaders that are full of themselves. The ability to be humble can be difficult even for those not in leadership positions. We all know someone who's ego can inflate like a bubble and is often just as fragile. To be humble, one must think less highly of themselves than they should.
Humility is often mistaken for weakness, lack of self esteem or insecurity. Those comparisons are far from fair however and fall short of capturing what humility actually is. The ability to be humble requires a strong mind and heart with an ability to accept that we are not perfect. Author C.S. Lewis said it best.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less - C.S. Lewis
Accepting you aren't perfect, does not mean you don't have value. Giving others credit does not mean you didn't contribute. Admitting a mistake doesn't make you weak, it makes you wise. Understanding these key characteristics of being humble can open a whole new perspective for you.
We are going to walk through six reasons you should be humble as a leader. When put into practice, humility can take you far and can bring others along with you. You will learn more, connect better with others and ultimately go further than you ever will with an ego. Having pride in who you are and the work you produce is important but there must be a balance. The goal is to find the balance between pride (not ego) and humility!
Reason #1 - A humble person empowers others
A humble leader impacts those around them in many positive ways. Many of these impacts are indirect signals to those in their circle of influence. These subconscious cues make it okay to:
Try new things
Step up and lead
When a leader is humble enough to know that all productivity and results come from the team and not just them, the team is empowered. Whether it is teammates, colleagues, kids or anyone the leader influences; being humble in success or defeat is vital to the team's success.
The team must know that they are allowed to step up and lead without fear of reprisal or stolen credit. Kids must know that they can try new things and make mistakes without fear of punishment from a parent. If you want to talk about a how to be humbled check out our article about how being a parent is arguably the hardest leadership job in the world.
Showing you are humble through accountability is a fantastic way to earn trust from your team. Especially in difficult situations, humility to shoulder the load and accept responsibility for the team, family or project, paints the leader in a positive light.
Reason #2 - Being humble helps you adapt
If there was any one skill that we could point to, that everyone should develop in today's world, its flexibility. In order to have flexibility of the mind, you must be humble enough to accept the need for change.
Any person that has ever set out to accomplish something has experienced some kind of "change of plans." Having the humility to be flexible and adapt your plan to the situation gives you a competitive advantage over someone who's ego won't let them recognize the need for change.
Change is inevitable in today's world and the person that can stay humble typically has an edge in changing faster and more deliberately. This mental flexibility gives humble leaders and individuals alike the ability to adapt to the complex and ever changing world we live in.
Reason #3 - Learn more and learn faster
Being humble about what you know or what you don't know allows you the openness of mind to learn new things and learn them faster. This happens because the humble leader knows they can learn something from anyone.
The world is so large and complex and every person you meet is so unique, that it is almost impossible not to learn something from everyone. That is, if you are willing to be humble and accept that no matter your station in life, there is something that can be learned from others.
The leader who feels the only people they can learn from are those above them or on the same "level" they are, is the leader who learns slowly. The higher you go, the smaller your circle and the less people you have to learn from. Why limit your options in such a way?
On the other hand, the leader that is humble enough to recognize the value of diverse perspectives, grows so much faster. A leader with humility knows that even the new employee that started yesterday, might have something to offer even the most seasoned executive.
"The capacity to learn is a gift, the ability to learn is a skill, the willingness to learn is a choice" - Brian Herbert
Reason #4 - Better empathize and connect with others
Be humble about your station in life, about the position you find yourself in or the blessings you enjoy. No matter what, there is always someone with more money than you and less money than you. A bigger house, newer car or a smaller house and older car, knowing that your life isn't the only life worth living is an empowering understanding.
It is powerful because being humble allows us to empathize and connect with others faster and in a more meaningful way. When you aren't so absorbed or wrapped up in your own life, it is easier to look around you and understand where others might be coming from. Having the humility to put your own concerns, fears or doubts aside opens your mind to understanding other people's situations.
As a leader, empathy and an ability to connect with others are critically important skills you must master. The more humble you are, the more altruistic you can be. The more altruistic you are, the easier it is to connect and empathize with others.
Reason #5 - Humility earns you more respect
The person that can be humble about what they have will earn the respect of those around them. No one likes a show off. Bragging about what you have, earn or do, leads to jealousy and animosity from those around you. If you were to constantly walk around flaunting your wealth or position, people might be impressed in the short term but find it difficult to connect with you. Worse, they might start to resent you and even despise you for what you have.
On the other hand, being humble despite your circumstances, helps others relate to you and connect with you. When they connect with you and know you more than for what you have, they will not only admire you but respect you. Respect is far more important than admiration.
Learning to be humble (and genuine in your humility) will endear you to those in your circle. This allows you as an individual to have far greater influence. People will know that their respect for you won't be taken for granted or flaunted for personal gain. As a leader, the respect of those you wish to serve, is far more valuable than just about anything else.