Humility in Leadership

Think about the jobs you’ve had, both past and present. Have you ever worked for someone who lacked humility? Chances are pretty good we all have at some point. How did that personality flaw make you feel? If you are/were like me, it regularly left me feeling agitated and lacking motivation. Ultimately, I moved on from the job just to escape the person. Don’t be a leader with a shortage of humility.

The best leaders are selfless and lift the team above themselves. They realize that without their team, a project, and ultimately a company, can’t succeed. Effective leaders vehemently oppose the idea that they are “better” than anyone else. Status does not warrant an elevated sense of self.

So how does a leader manage with humility?

Kill the ego

You will face difficult and critical decisions over time. Sometimes (hopefully, more often than not) you will get it right and lead your team down the best path. A nasty side effect of success in leading is an elevated sense of self-importance. An egotistical leader makes decisions in isolation to reinforce they are needed and possess superior skill and insight. This is toxic and destroys trust within the team.

So how do you kill your ego? Enlist the opinions of trusted friends, family, or colleagues that have no bias and are not affected by the decision at hand. Their neutral view will provide a perspective that will help expose your own ego, biases, or leanings. The ear of a trusted friend should not be underestimated.

No job is beneath you

In a similar vein as killing your ego, be eager to jump in and get dirty with your team. No, this isn’t a free pass to dive into a code editor and save the day (see “Kill the ego” above). What it might look like is when you are forced to ask your team to put in overtime, you are in the office at their side making sure they have coffee and snacks. Your presence will not go unnoticed, and your reward is their loyalty and gratitude.

Set the standard

As a leader, all team members are looking to you to set the standard. If you are prepared to ask something of your team, you are not the exception to that rule. A “do as I say, not as I do” standard tells your team that you are above the rules and may do as you please. This ultimately fosters resentment and tells other leaders (such as senior developers, project managers, etc.) that it’s OK to set rules and the ignore them themselves.

Leading with humility will have an immediate positive impact on your team. You’ll experience improved productivity, stronger loyalty, and better team morale.

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