As we are promoted into positions of management and leadership, it can be tempting to become enamored with success, status, and accomplishment. Success can  ring with it an inflated sense of self-importance and a difficulty in showing humility. A prideful spirit, coupled with a “know-it-all” attitude, will likely result in an environment of low trust, damaged relationships, poor communication, destructive conflict, and the inability to synergize as a team. All of this produces low employee engagement, high employee turnover, and poor results.

With all these flashing warning signs, what’s the manager or leader to do? First, it is wise to remember and embrace the purpose of management and leadership; to get things done, with and through other people, and to help create an environment where they can be successful. This calls for the leader to demonstrate humility. Humility is at the core of servant leadership and means focusing on the greater good of others and the team, instead of focusing on yourself and your interests.

Let’s examine five truths about humility, the cornerstone of leadership:

  1. Humility is born of appreciation and thankfulness.
  2. Humility is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and perfected.
  3. Humility requires us to discipline our thoughts and is demonstrated through our words and actions.
  4. Humility has the power to inspire trust and to influence people to want to follow us.
  5. Humility results in a highly engaged workforce, outstanding leaders, and best-in-class organizations.

Since humility is a learned skill, consider cultivating the five behaviors common to the humble leader:

  1. Humble leaders are called to coach and mentor others; be coachable yourself and search out training and/or a mentoring relationship to help you grow personally and professionally.
  2. Humble leaders offer feedback to others; be open to feedback yourself and treat it as a gift. Demonstrate respect by resisting defensiveness. Acknowledge and respond to feedback in a tangible and timely manner.
  3. Make it your deliberate goal to be a great listener. Remember, the greatest need your people
    have is to be listened to, appreciated, and understood.
  4. Develop a level of comfort with apologizing; “I’m sorry, I was wrong” will go a long way in developing strong relationships.
  5. Whenever you can, pass the credit for success on to your people and team. Make it your aim to “catch people in the act” of doing something well and give them Specific Sincere Immediate and Personal (SSIP) praise. Anything that is recognized and rewarded gets repeated.

The truth is you are called to make the best decisions and get results with and through other people; without humility you can do none of these. Embrace the fact that successful leadership is not a series of transactions but a transformational experience requiring patience, empathy, self-control, and humility.

The bottom line: You cultivate humility and servant leadership because it’s the right thing to do. Be patient with the process because it has the power to produce strong relationships and superior results.

Finally, consider the words and perspective of Jim Collins, author of Good to Great – “The X-Factor of
great leadership is not personality, it’s humility.”