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.


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

The Essential Quality All Leaders Must Possess

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“Great leaders are self-aware and they have a strong blend of confidence and humility.”

In season 25 episode 7 we are joined by Matt Higgins. You can learn more about him here.

Matt is a noted serial entrepreneur and growth equity investor as cofounder and CEO of private investment firm RSE Ventures. He is also vice-chairman of the Miami Dolphins, a recurring Shark on ABC’s four-time Emmy-Award-winning TV show Shark Tank, and Executive Fellow at the Harvard Business School.

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The Essential Leadership Quality

There are many things a company or business can overcome but poor leadership isn’t one of them. As Matt Higgins said on the Follow My Lead Podcast, “a fish always stinks at the head.”

It turns out there is one quality that stands above the rest that Matt and other investors look for in a leader, self-awareness.

Not being self-aware as a leader will cause you to fail.

There are a couple of things Higgins looks for in leaders to determine if they are self-aware or not. “I look for blend of confidence and humility in leaders.  You have to have the confidence to be able to ask yourself if you are going in the right direction and you have to have the humility to go ahead and acknowledge it publicly.”

Don’t assume you can’t have more confidence and humility

Too often, leaders believe their strengths and weaknesses from a leadership perspective are personality traits that are set in stone. A great example of this came from Mel Robbins on Tom Bilyeu’s show Impact Theory, “I used to think confidence was a personality trait. The truth is confidence isn’t a personality trait at all.”

Robbins is right about confidence and the same could be said for humility. As C.S. Lewis famously said, “humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. You can grow and get better in each of these. If your mindset doesn’t reflect this belief, the chances of you ever reaching your full potential from a leadership perspective is slim to none.

The good news is once you get your mindset to one of growth, you will look at every event as an opportunity to learn and get better.

How to grow your self-awareness

Our research of more than 40,000 leaders and thousands of BTB Leader Assessments has shown the number one thing leaders do poorly is asking their people for feedback about how they are doing. Too many leaders assume they are doing a good job. People want to feel like they are being heard and asking for feedback is not only a great way to do this, but it also helps the leader improve their self-awareness.

Laszlo Bock, former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google and current CEO of Humu, has often been cited for helping his former company’s simple yet unique method of conducting peer reviews. Rather than just management providing feedback for lower-level employees, Google’s management also gets feedback from junior employees on things they “should do more of and one thing they could do differently.”

If this tactic works for one of the most successful companies in the world, it should work for you, too. Soliciting feedback from your employees is a way to build trust and improve your leadership skills. Consider sending emails to your team once per quarter asking what you’re doing well and how you can improve to better help them meet their potential.


The best part about Matt Higgins advice is anyone can become more self-aware if they want to. Regardless if you are a self-aware leader today or not, you can begin to be today.

Increase Your Leadership Self-Awareness – Become fully aware of how you’re currently leading your team. The BTB Leader Report will reveal your current leadership style. Each report comes with a self-assessment and a direct report assessment that are combined into your BTB Leader Report.  The report shows you how you’re perceived by individual (while keeping their anonymity), your team as a whole, and how you perceive your own leadership skills, Get it Now.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. 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 and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Turn Yourself into a Leadership Success

“Leaders build influence and trust with people through their behavior.”

In season 24, episode 1, we are joined by Scott Miller.  He is the Executive Vice President of Thought Leadership at Franklin Covey and is the author of Management Mess to Leadership Success.  

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There were so many powerful lessons to learn in the interview with Scott. A few of my favorites include:

“Slow is fast and fast is slow.  You have to move from efficiency to an effective mindset when it comes to relationships.”

“People are not the company’s most important asset.  It’s the relationship between those people.”

“Leaders who fail to demonstrate humility, often find themselves leaning towards arrogance or outside validation.”

You can follow Scott on LinkedIn

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. HE was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Be Humble at Work (And Why the Best Leaders Embrace It)

There are many attributes that leaders must develop if they wish to have a meaningful impact in the workplace. Empathy improves your ability to relate with those you lead, while a focus on accountability ensures that everyone gives their best effort.

But among these many important attributes, the value of humility seems to be consistently overlooked. Part of this is due to common misconceptions about what humility is and what it means to be humble. In reality, however, humility is one attribute that no leader should do without.

Part of the reason humility tends to be overlooked in the workplace is because it is frequently misconstrued as a “weak” attribute. We have been led to believe that people who are humble are easily bulldozed by others and aren’t willing to stick up for themselves. Many define humility as having a low opinion of oneself.

While this may be one widely accepted view of humility today, it is actually a far cry from the true meaning of the word — and the way it should be applied in leadership. Humility isn’t about being passive and weak. It’s about showing respect and recognizing the truth in all situations, including in the workplace.

In contrast to the idea of humility as weakness, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” In fact, it is listed as an antonym for words like “egoism,” “conceit” and “superiority.”

C.S. Lewis shared one of my favorite quotes on the subject:

“humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

In all my work helping professionals become leaders, there is no doubt the top leaders from the BTB Leader Assessment, are confident in themselves but put their people ahead of themselves.

The Value of a Humble Outlook at Work

When you’ve already found success in the business world, it can be tempting to dismiss feedback or criticism from others. But this leads to stagnation and pride. While it’s true that not all criticism is valid. Leaders who don’t have much humility have a tendency to dismiss all criticism or worse blame others for their own mistakes.

“Humble leaders must be willing to evaluate criticism to determine if it’s valid or not,” explained Christopher Ferry, founder of Boca Recovery Center, in a recent text message. Together, we’d been discussing the value of humility in leadership. Continued Ferry, “The best leaders are willing to admit when they are wrong and view mistakes as learning opportunities, so they can turn them into something positive — something transformative.”

When I asked Dustin Kaehr on the Follow My Lead Podcast what the most important characteristic for a leader to embody today he said, “There are many things, but humility is at the top.” In other words, a humble leader sounds like the type of person that most of us would prefer to interact with on a daily basis. It is the type of person that can become a truly effective leader.

Strengthening the Team

A study published in the Journal of Management highlighted just how far-reaching the effects of humble leadership can be. The study concluded that leaders who were humble were far more likely to delegate and innovate. As a result, company performance and employee satisfaction improved, while turnover fell.

In other words, humble leadership essentially empowers employees. They become more willing to speak their mind and offer suggestions because they know that their leaders are going to listen.

This culture results in high engagement and innovation — and if there’s one lesson that has been consistent in the business world, it’s that innovation is crucial if you want your success to be sustainable in the long run.

Though humility is often underrated by the world at large, it’s essential if you want to be successful as a leader not just at work, but in life. Reject your notion to boast or lift yourself above anyone and decide to be at the service of others.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn professionals into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.