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What Does It Mean To Be A Humble Leader?

Graphic Showing Sharing Floating StarHumility is a word often misunderstood by those who see it as a weakness. We associate the word “humility” with other words that are unfair attachments to the true meaning of humility.

For example, we sometimes confuse subservience with humility. We also mislabel a lack of confidence with humility. Sometimes, and in some cultures, humility has a negative connotation that is associated with meekness or weakness.

And then there's that really wrong belief that humility has something to do with being humiliated. To be humiliated means to have a loss of pride, self-respect or dignity.

None of these are accurate representations of what humility really means. As a leader, it's important to understand and value true humility.

Humility For Leadership

To be humble means to not be proud or arrogant. The closest synonym for humble is modest. The word humble, as I am using it here, does not mean a feeling of insignificance, inferiority or low status.

As a leader, you can benefit by being humble. Leaders who are arrogant miss out on so many opportunities. Arrogance prevents people from being open to others' ideas and input. Pride causes people to over-estimate their own abilities and develop blind spots about their weaknesses. You know the old saying “pride goeth before a fall."

With humility, your confidence in your own abilities enables you to ask others for help and to respect and value what others can contribute. With humility, you show strength by drawing others into conversations and decisions. With humility you are respectful of work done by others.

Arrogance leads to unnecessary competition inside organizations. As a leader, your humility demonstrates a desire for collaboration rather than internal competition.

This kind of humility does require an extraordinary strength. It requires you to set aside your ego. But if you believe that real strength comes from surrounding yourself with capable, talented people, then you simply must be humble. Otherwise, your arrogance will be self-limiting. Those talented people will not want to work with you and follow you.

Ask yourself: am I strong enough to be humble?