Humility is a Must for Leaders

Joe Weinlick
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The core of professional humility is the understanding that one person, no matter how inspirational and powerful, is merely one part of the whole. Great leaders understand their strengths, but they also recognize that the contributions of others are necessary for successful business operations. With a few simple strategies, you can keep your ego in check and elicit the best work from your team.

Trust Team Members

Professional humility requires a great deal of perceptiveness and trust. To build a high-functioning team, you must first recognize the strengths and abilities of each member — and then trust them to do their jobs. Although this sounds simple, it can feel risky, particularly when a valuable project is on the line. By resisting the urge to hover or micromanage, you communicate respect for and confidence in each person. In turn, your employees feel supported but also free to exercise their skills.

Encourage Open Discussion

Leadership does not require you to be an idea factory. On quite the contrary, great leaders know to seek feedback from team members, recognize good ideas and determine how to implement them for the good of the company. To encourage employees to share their ideas and concerns openly, demonstrate professional humility at every turn. Put aside your biases, listen with an open mind, and give workers the chance to argue for solutions that push the boundaries. Most importantly, give appropriate credit when an idea makes its way into practice. This process makes your team feel safe, so they can explore the seemingly impossible concepts that lead to disruptive innovation.

Invest in Development

The most effective leaders do not jealously guard their positions of power. Instead, they show professional humility by investing in employee development, even when that means a worker might rise to a loftier job. Put this principle into play by looking for potential and finding ways to nurture it. If an employee consistently demonstrates organization and attention to detail, try putting that person into a project-management role. Alternatively, build skills by securing company funding for continuing education or encouraging cross-training. By recognizing and developing your employees' strengths, you can build a killer team and help workers feel capable and cared for.

Deal With Failure

The way you respond to failure shapes your reputation as a leader. You must acknowledge and accept responsibility for your errors — and those of your team — and avoid making the same mistake again. Albeit potentially unpleasant, these situations are opportunities to show professional humility. When you use a mistake to prompt self-reflection and make changes accordingly, you set a positive example of growth and improvement for the rest of the team.

Professional humility is common among respected, well-liked leaders, but it is rarely easy or comfortable. By cultivating habits that keep you humble, you can build a powerful team and make an impact on your industry.

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