Six steps to becoming a humble leader

Last updated on 20 October 2023

With six key steps, any leader can show off authentic humility, something that often earns respect and praise within the workplace. [Source: Shutterstock]

Humility is arguably the strongest trait any leader can possess as it complements all leadership styles. Humility is endearing, well-received and easily praisable: just think of the warm reception to athletes sharing the glory with their teammates after winning a grand final or executives celebrating with their colleagues after reaching a significant milestone. 

But humility is more than just a word. It has to be authentic. There should be no false dawn coming before a leader, your humility has to shine like the warmth of a sun on a cool winter’s day. These are the all-too-real traits befitting any humble leader. 

Share the spotlight

If you look up humility in the dictionary, it will likely be described as “the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance”. In reality, humility should be less about holding a low view of oneself and more about holding a high view of others. So in any achievement, big or small, focus and praise are placed on those around you.

Take any group project as an example. Collaboration is always a feature but just how well do you share the spotlight, even as a leader? Humble leaders can see their own limitations and recognise when and where others help them to achieve great outcomes. 

Rather than taking all the credit for a task achieved as a team, humble leaders take time to share the praise and highlight individual contributions and achievements. This will result in creating a leader who is accessible and relatable to their peers.

Seek out feedback

When you take a moment to recognise your weaknesses and knowledge gaps, it’s beneficial to seek out feedback from others. Effective and active listening will help you feel more in tune with yourself as you can keep an open mind and listen to understand, not respond. 

That’s the key when seeking feedback: you’re looking for outside opinions that’ll help you develop. Humility is essential as you need to be open to change, otherwise, you may act in a way that negatively impacts others.

Acknowledge and accept mistakes

One of the best ways to learn is from failure. You need to see what went wrong, both with your own work and from others, and accept that’s going to happen from time to time. It’s a normal part of life and work. Throw in a sense of humility and the general consensus that it’s okay to make mistakes because you can develop better practices is going to allow everyone to take the necessary steps to improvement. This will build respect as employees will see a leader who is always willing to learn and grow as part of the team.

Find the next generation of leaders

Team environments are the perfect place to try new things which includes sharing the leadership load to find the next generation of leaders. This allows you to work with rising talent and help them prepare for the future. 

But why would you want to do that when the focus at work is often on ensuring others see just how important you are? Well, what happens when you’re sick or you go on an extended holiday? Any successful organisation has people waiting in the wings who can fill leadership gaps at critical times. It also has new voices ready to share ideas and be innovative when senior management can’t take on a new project. 

And so, with humble leadership, you see the opportunity to set up the future and create an environment where you could leave tomorrow and be assured everything would be okay.

Take time to give back

Humble leaders are always willing to lend a hand and help out others. Volunteering is the perfect way to achieve that no matter how far up the ladder you are. For example, hello leaders previously spoke to Tina Williams, Volunteering WA CEO, who takes time to be a volunteer with a community visitor scheme. It’s the perfect example of an authentic humble leader sharing their time to benefit the community. 

Be thankful

There are countless benefits to being a humble leader. You can build strong team rapport and values when you share the spotlight and allow others to be included in key conversations. It’s easy to be more productive when the load is spread across many capable shoulders, while you’ll be more likely to achieve goals in a timely manner when everyone has a reason to be equally motivated.

Therefore you have plenty of reasons to be thankful. Feeling thankful will keep you grounded and show just how much you appreciate others when you say thanks out loud.

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