For some, the act of humility is being modest. For others, it’s lacking confidence. In both cases, humility appears self-effacing and hinders action.
Here’s three ways a humble leader can take action to build stronger teams and increase personal growth:
1. Mistakes are inevitable, making the best of them is not
In 2022 the idea that mistakes are inevitable is common.
But what does this mean for our day-to-day lives?
When confronted with uncertainty and the associated risk of error, we hesitate and recoil. When mistakes do happen, we avoid looking at them and resist responsibility.
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.Eleanor Roosevelt
We learn early on that mistakes are bad and people who make mistakes are worse than people who don’t. Naturally, this develops an aversion to failure. An avoidance of accountability and ultimately, a stagnation of growth.
We lose our appreciation of trial and error and our love of learning that follows. Perseverance atrophies in the absence of achievement.
In contrast, the leader sees the potential for development in each mistake.
Humility enables openness about making mistakes, creating a learning environment to investigate, and correct, individual or team mistakes.
Over time, a humble leader creates a culture that sees mistakes as an inevitable result of moving forward. Unavoidable bumps on the path to progress.
This environment allows the team to celebrate projects for the strength built overcoming mistakes along the way as well as for the final outcome.
2. Teams take on the personality of their leaders
A leader is under constant surveillance from their team. When walking the floor, talking with team members or making a public announcement, the team is watching and examining.
A leader’s behavior sets the standards, and the team is expected to follow. Autocratic leaders create teams that do not think for themselves.
By contrast, participative leaders create teams that are thoughtful and contributive.
A competent leader can get efficient service from poor troops, while on the contrary an incapable leader can demoralize the best of troops.John J Pershing
Leaders that yell and berate create teams that disrespect and disparage. Leaders that talk behind each other’s backs create silos and infighting. Leaders that talk with others genuinely and respectfully create environments of mutual support and trust.
The humble leader recognizes the impact they have on their team members and solicits feedback, either explicitly, or implicitly. They ask questions of their team such as “What can I do better?” and “What do you need from me?” They listen deeply, analyzing what is said and what is not said.
The humble leader has accepted that mistakes are inevitable and happen daily. They take this to heart and look for ways to modify their behavior to best match the needs of their team.
3. Self-awareness is key to goal setting
Management literature is rife with stories of bold leaders setting audacious goals and teams that accomplish more than they ever thought possible.
We wouldn’t normally think of these leaders as humble. The term bold inspires pictures of a visionary leader standing on a mountaintop guiding the way.
However, humility brings greater self-awareness and enables realistic goal setting.
It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself.Latin Proverb
A leader lacking self-awareness sets unobtainable goals for themselves and for the team. This results in a demotivated team and establishes unachievable targets for the business.
That doesn’t mean realistic goals are not audacious. The most audacious goal must still be possible.
Visionary leaders can see more of what’s possible when others only see the impossible.
Vision tempered by humility ensures a balance between what the leader and team are capable of now and their potential moving forward.
In addition, the humble leader acts on their personal limitations. This creates space and growth opportunities for other to contribute their corresponding strengths.
Ultimately, as the team progresses, the sum becomes greater than the parts.
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