The Most Important Leadership Trait
When we think of leaders, several characteristics or attributes immediately come to mind. Charisma. Honesty. Strength. Communication. Enthusiasm. Confidence. Attitude. Creativity. Vision.
And let's face it… Any of these can become a springboard to great leadership. Ronald Reagan was widely praised for his charisma. Abe Lincoln for his honesty… Winston Churchill for his strength… Jack Kennedy for his communication… The list goes on and on.
Yet there's an attribute, often overlooked, that makes good leaders great. That attribute is known as, "Humility."
Many of the aforementioned characteristics are important for long-term success, but I'd go so far as to say humility is necessary.
Arrogant leaders cannot connect. They serve themselves instead of others. They build walls or ivory towers between themselves and those they intend to lead. They mistake power for leadership. And there's nothing able to destroy a team faster than a leader on a power trip.
Humble leaders connect. They build up other people. They listen. They learn. They serve others. They open hearts.
They make their living providing comfort to others, bending when necessary, and living to fight another day. Like palm trees, humble leaders are a beautiful thing.
Humble Leaders Are Open to Others' Ideas & Opinions
Humble leaders seek input to ensure they are making decisions in the best interest of their companies. These leaders recognize that seldom does one person have all the answers. If you think you do, then it’s probably time to rethink the way you lead.
Humble Leaders Serve Others
Groups perform better when they are certain leaders are looking out for them. I'm not talking about handholding. I'm talking about clearing paths. Humble leaders — leaders interested in service — make certain their teams have the resources necessary to succeed.
Humble Leaders Admit When They Are Wrong
As difficult as it can be to admit when you're wrong, there are three great reasons to do it.
First, admitting mistakes earns respect. People don't expect you to be right 100 percent of the time, but they do expect you to be honest that often. Admitting mistakes is a fantastic indicator of honesty.
Second, vulnerability is good for business. Vulnerability brings attention to gaps in capability, opportunity, knowledge, and expertise. It helps organizations understand their shortcomings and begin to build remedies that make everyone stronger.
Third, admitting mistakes builds a culture of trust. Trust, in turn, builds confidence. Any corporate culture marked by confidence and trust is a culture that will foster innovation, entrepreneurialism, and a healthy amount of risk taking.
With mistakes come learning. With learning comes competitive advantage.
Humble Leaders Practice Self-Reflection
Years ago I began keeping a journal. It was a good decision. By keeping track of what has gone well or gone wrong — what has worked throughout my career and what hasn't — I'm better able to learn from mistakes and focus on improvement.
How can we improve anything, really, if we don't reflect upon our mistakes, remain humble about them, and make every effort to improve results?
Humble Leaders Delegate
There's a certain type of leader who believes she must do everything herself. You know what? Sometimes that's true. Sometimes the leader is the best at a particular task. But leaders who think this way are exercising a form of hubris that will prohibit their organizations from scaling. Hubris among leaders is a growth killer.
It takes humility and an interest in seeing others succeed to admit that your way isn't the only way to accomplish something important. Humble leaders accept this truth and empower others to work for their companies and customers.
When leaders are humble — when they serve the people they lead — employees are happier in their jobs, more productive, and better able to achieve the outcomes leaders are charged with attaining. Be a humble leader.