Why Being Humble Makes You a Better Leader

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There is something remarkable about humble leaders. It could be the way they make you feel when they communicate; it could be the fact that you feel drawn to going out of your way to be a part of what they’re doing; or it could be the way they model what you want to become.  

According to research in the Academy of Management Journal, humble leaders actually “embolden individuals to aspire to their highest potential and enables them to make the incremental improvements necessary to progress toward that potential.” 

Being a humble leader pays off in the performance category, but what’s most remarkable is the vast majority of humble leaders have every reason, because of their accomplishments to reject humility, but instead they embrace it. They don’t just talk about it, but it’s built into who they are and how they lead. It’s as if deep down, they understand that the path to effective leadership is paved with humility, not pride.  

Great leaders understand that the path to effective leadership is paved with humility, not pride.  

Most leaders grasp this concept because, before their achievements, they encountered strain in the form of failures, challenges, and or heartaches.  

What is Humility?

When you think of some famous recent leaders like Donald Trump, Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos, humility is far from the first leadership trait that comes to mind. Whether you believe those leaders have humility or not, we often don’t think of humility in leaders because we don’t know what it is.

Websters defines it as; freedom from pride or arrogance, the quality or state of being humble. Being humble isn’t a lack of confidence or not believing in yourself. In fact, quite the opposite is true. To have freedom from pride and arrogance, it must start from a place of introspection.

C.S. Lewis said, “humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” 

In an article a few years ago, the Washington Post found: “True humility, scientists have learned, is when someone has an accurate assessment of both his strengths and weaknesses, and he sees all this in the context of the larger whole. He’s a part of something far greater than he. He knows he isn’t the center of the universe. And he’s both grounded and liberated by this knowledge. Recognizing his abilities, he asks how he can contribute. Recognizing his flaws, he asks how he can grow.”

So the natural question is, if you struggle with humility or want to be a more humble leader, how do you do it? It won’t be easy, but here’s how to get started.

Start with the Truth

I have written before, “all improvement starts with the truth.” When it comes to humility, being a humble leader also starts with the truth. Philadelphia 76ers basketball coach Doc Rivers said, “Average players want to be left alone. Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth.”  

The truth is every position that exists today will one day be held by someone else. The President of the United States, The Pope, and even your current role will one day be someone else’s seat. Allow this truth to sink into your soul.  

You have a significant role to play while you have it, and you should give everything you can to do meet your potential, but it can’t and shouldn’t be all about you. It has to be about elevating others and helping those around you become the best version of themselves.

Stay a Student

Some of the signs of an arrogant leader include; not listening, always wanting to be right, avoiding accountability, and thinking they know it all. A humble leader looks and feels much different. They admit when they make mistakes and are obsessed with learning.  

TD Jakes mentioned in his new book, Don’t Drop the Mic, “The world is a university, and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure you wake up and go to school your entire life learning from the good and the bad.”

It reminds me of when I interviewed Villanova’s head coach Jay Wright for an episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast right after they had won the national championship. He heard a quote from Napoleon about leadership during the show, and I watched him grab a pen and write it down. After we had finished recording, he said, “I hadn’t heard that quote, and I want to use it with my team.”

Wright had every right to feel like he had learned it all because of his team’s success, but instead, he continued to embrace the mindset of staying a student, which you and I must do as well. If at any point you stop learning, you will be dying.  

Embrace Accountability

One of the most significant mistakes leaders in choosing pride over humility is avoiding accountability. Instead of inviting people in their lives to be feedback vehicles, they decide to go it alone. In the beginning, it isn’t a big deal. But as time goes on, the lies and thoughts in one’s head become their reality. Those thoughts then become engrained in their behavior, and it’s what other people experience. 

The vaccine for this situation is to embrace accountability. Put people around you who keep you grounded and are willing to have difficult dialogues when they recognize something is off. Then you keep an open mind and heart to the words they say without getting defensive or making excuses.  

I recognize this is easy to write but difficult to put into practice. But the best part, is when your team sees you embracing accountability, they will embrace it as well.

Closing

The best leaders indeed understand that the path to effective leadership is paved with humility and not pride. However, it doesn’t mean it’s easy, or it doesn’t mean you won’t have moments where pride or ego win you over. The key is to recognize these moments and get back on the humility path as quickly as possible. 

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.Report

What Elon Musk Can Teach You About Being a Visionary Leader

The best leaders are visionaries. They see something that is possible in the distance, something others cannot see, and they communicate that vision relentlessly to help their team reach it. There might be no better story about vision than the story about former President John F Kennedy and a janitor. The story goes like this:

JFK was visiting NASA headquarters for the first time in 1961. While touring the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

The janitor got it. He understood NASA’s vision and his part in it. He had a purpose.

One of the most important things you can do to as a leader is to have a vision and communicate with the team so they can envision what their work will help the team achieve. This is not something you can leave up to chance. People have a hard time seeing what is possible — they need a leader like you to help develop the belief in a future vision.

So here is the principle we teach in the Welder Leader Program:

A vision doesn’t guarantee a team will get where it wants to go, but they certainly won’t get there without one. 

Here are 3 things you can do for both the short-term and the long-term to help your team choose to be disciplined in order to achieve your vision.

Define the Vision.

A vision is a clear goal plus a completion date. What is a big goal that you see for your team and by when do you want to complete it? As an example, Elon Musk told his team at SpaceX, “We are going to land people on Mars by 2025.” Now I have no clue if they are going to get there by 2025 but he has given his people an excellent vision to work toward and it helps them come to work every day and make decisions to make that vision become a reality. Your vision could have a shorter timeline to execution or it could be a smaller goal but the important thing is defining it.

Communicate it Relentlessly.

Having a vision that is out of this world does no good if it’s not communicated relentlessly to your team. People need to hear it and see it in order for them to take ownership. Communicate your vision to the entire team, then make it visible for people to see it all the time. It could be written on walls in the office, in email signatures, etc. If you only communicate your vision once, it will not get the job done.

Work Towards Small Wins.

Reaching a big vision sometimes takes years, if not decades. Always look for small wins on the road to reaching the vision so people know they are making positive progress. As an example, the team should begin to see small wins or encouraging moments to ensure the team is moving in the right direction. No win is too small to celebrate or communicate because the road to get where you are trying to go will be filled with road bumps.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. Follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How Leaders Can Communicate Their Vision

All great leaders have an uncanny ability to see a better future and impart that vision into others. So it’s simple, a leadership vision is some sense of what the future and getting others to believe that vision is possible.  Think of Elon Musk of SpaceX, “We are going to land people on Mars by 2025.”  What an amazing vision for his people to buy into and work towards.

This is our journey on how we are working to make our vision become a reality.  Hopefully you can learn some best practices to put into place in your own teams.

 

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The Most Important Conversation a Leader Can Have

I looked up nearly in tears as my manager finished his 30-minute berating rant about my performance, and all I could focus on was the exit sign in the distance. It was my only outlet at that point. I was chasing a goal arbitrarily set by my manager, that I had no chance of achieving unless something miraculous happened.

Whether you have been in a performance-driven sales role or not, you can relate to having a manager provide results-oriented goals with no clear purpose, vision, or mission behind them.

It’s shocking how many bosses still live in a world where it’s “do as I say and don’t ask questions.” What’s worse is when you do what they say and you don’t meet their unrealistic expectations, it somehow is entirely your fault or just a major lack of skill.

Here is a simple conversation construct that all leaders must have with their people in order to avoid these bad situations and set their leader-employee relationship up for major success.

Why are we here.

Steve Jobs said, “The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.” It’s a leaders job to communicate a purpose to their team that helps them wake up every morning thinking how lucky they are to be doing what they are doing. Without a purpose, there is really no reason for a team to follow you. Does your team know the reason you are on this journey?

What Do We Do and for Whom.

Leadership expert Roderic Yapp, says it beautifully, “A Mission is simply what you do and for whom.” It should be stated in very simple language and is used to keep you focused on the right activities. So simply, mission is the following equation:

Mission= We do X in order to achieve Y for Z

The mission of Rod’s business, Leadership Forces is ‘to develop leaders in fast-growing companies who are able to deliver business performance’. Have you communicated what your teams mission is to your people, if so could they repeat it?

Where are we going.

Like the old saying “ When you are lost, any old map will do.” Great leadership entails vision, because without it we don’t know where we are leading people. If leaders can’t communicate direction effectively, then we have no right to ask people to join us on the journey. A vision takes into account the current status and paints a clear picture of a future state that will be successful by a certain timeline.

Just this week, Elon Musk the famous SpaceX CEO said “We are going to land people on Mars, by 2025.” I have no clue if they are going to get there and I am certain I won’t be one of the people on the spaceship, but I have little doubt that his team has a clear vision and timeline to make it happen.

What do we expect from each other.

Most people have heard of the story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. If you haven’t, check out this video. Too often people are unclear about what is expected of them and how they are going to be held accountable. The best leader-employee conversation I ever heard was simple and it went something like this: “These are my strengths, these are my weaknesses, this is what I am going to commit to doing for you and this is what I expect back in return. If either of us don’t meet these standards we both have the right to call each other out.” Simple, straight to the point, and clear – the only way expectations and accountability can work.

Have a conversation with your team where you clearly and confidently answer these four questions. When you do so, your professional relationships with your team will improve and the results will follow.

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