How the best leaders lead with humility

Today, people want more than a job. People want to connect – to themselves, each other, and the things they value the most.

People want leaders who are real – who are grounded, open, transparent and vulnerable. With them, there’s no BS, ego, jargon or hidden agendas. Real leaders know how to connect and relate to others. They are humble.

Humble leaders show sides of themselves we all can connect with

Roger Federer welled up when he won his 20th Grand Slam last month. His tears showed us what the win meant to him “I’m so happy, it’s unbelieveable” “Winning is an absolute dream come true”.

Being humble matters

HBR’s recent article on how AI will impact leadership moving forward, tells us that the soft skill of humility will be a critical leadership quality in the future¹.

Why is humility in leadership getting more and more attention?

As our business landscape continues to change exponentially, due to technology, automation and AI, there is one thing that won’t change – and that’s us. We’re human beings not human doings. We’re complex and diverse. Everyone is unique. No two people think and experience things in the same way. We’re driven and motivated by different things.

Leaders who are humble see the potential and value in others – because they are self-aware enough to value it without comparison to themselves.

Being humble is to appreciate that at some level, we’re all the same. Being humble isn’t about thinking less of yourself. It’s realising there’s no need to be better than anyone else or try and be like somebody else.

I believe the true gift of humility is to know that our dreams get taken care of when we help others achieve theirs.

Being humble means appreciating everyone has a life story and everyone has a contribution to make.

There is no perfect leadership style. There is no one set of leadership characteristics. There is no right lens for leadership that shapes how you should show up for others. As a leader you need to figure out a lens through which your leadership is authentic and real.

When I interviewed John Chambers, Ex-Executive Director, Telstra, it was apparent to me that he chose humility as his leadership lens:

“Many people see leadership in the beginning as getting ahead or getting promoted. I see leadership, as having people follow what I put out there, so I can help them find out who they really are. People are the centre of how I think and do things. That doesn’t mean I won’t fire you if you’re not up to the task. But ultimately what I’m here for is to see you grow and for you to reach your full potential. People centred with a tough edge is how we do things. I try to be humble, every day. And the important thing is to be consistent so that people don’t get surprised. It keeps me within my integrity”.

Bringing it all together

Humble leaders appreciate that our real thoughts and our real feelings are messy. They understand there is much more to someone than meets the eye. Leading with humility means finding the potential in someone that is there, rather than judging the potential that is not there. Humble leaders genuinely care about who you are, just as much, if not more, than what you’ve done. No wonder they can empower and inspire others to achieve great things.

Are you interested in bringing more humility into your leadership? How would your thinking need to change? What could you choose to pay more attention to?

¹ HBR (Jan 22, 2018): As AI Makes More Decisions, the Nature of Leadership Will Change.

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