Humility and Leadership

by Mike Myatt

Humility and LeadershipNews Flash – the phrase ”humble leadership” is not an oxymoron. While many people immediately conjure-up an image of the ever so confident, bombastic extrovert without an ounce of humility as the picture of what constitutes a real leader, nothing could be further from the truth. As my wife has always said, “Those who talk the most usually have the least to say.” While feigned humility is the height of insincerity, authentic humility is the most sincere form of confidence and strength. Leaders need to understand that being authentically humble humanizes them, allows them to build stronger trust bonds, and engenders confidence & loyalty from peers and subordinates alike. In today’ post I’ll share my thoughts on the value of learning to become a humble leader…

It’s been said that life is a long lesson in humility. As a leader, the sooner you come to grips with your humility the better leader you’ll become. Over the years I have come to believe that “having class” is synonymous with demonstrating a penchant for humility over bravado. True leaders possess a quiet confidence that attracts attention like a magnet. It is the genuine nature of their subtle & quiet charisma/presence, and not the decibel level of their rhetoric that draws you in. True self-confidence is reflected in a person’s deeds and actions, and not in their ability to boast. One of the worst things a leader can do is to let their ego write checks their talent can’t cash…

When you think of a true leader do you envision someone who displays a quiet confidence or a blatant arrogance? While a reserved attitude of humility can often be misinterpreted as a sign of weakness, if you’ve ever negotiated with a truly confident person who is authentically humble, you’ll find that their resolve is often much greater than the feigned confidence of the arrogant. While hubris can be a needed trait to call upon at times, to rely solely upon it as the foundation of your leadership style just doesn’t work. It was C.S. Lewis who said: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking about yourself less.” Simply put, humble leaders recognize and value the contributions of others in lieu of self-promotion.

The truth of the matter is that few things have inspired and motivated me over the years like the quiet confidence and humility of great leaders. I would much rather listen to the self-deprecating humor of a confident person making fun of themselves than the mean spirited attacks of an arrogant person waged at someone else’s expense. More importantly, I would much rather work for, or along side of, the understated than the overstated. Those professionals that have self respect, and demonstrate a true respect for others regardless of their station in life, are much more likely to be successful over the long-term than those that use the tactics of disrespect to humiliate and intimidate.

Contrary to popular folklore, it’s important to note that nice guys & gals don’t finish last. Leaders that display authentic humility have broader spheres of influence, attract better talent, engender more confidence, and earn more loyalty and respect than do those leaders who rely solely upon their chutzpa and their ability to brandish their bravado. If what you’re seeking is lasting relationships, long-term success, and a better quality of life (in and out of the workplace) then you’ll be well served to forgo the pompous acts of the arrogant, and substitute the humility and quiet confidence displayed by true leaders.

If you have any interesting stories about leaders who either possessed great humility, or were sorely lacking in that regard, I’d encourage you to share your experience by leaving a comment below. Thanks in advance for sharing…

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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual“, and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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  1. Mike, interesting thoughts on “true leader”. We debated in my leadership and org behavior class last night over definitions and theories of “leader”. My students were initially hung up on leader as position and authority. I think that most are in positions or stages of life where they have not been around good leaders (or even good managers) and so the boss concept resonates with them. Fortunately, one of them was able to tell us about his last CEO who fit more into your concept of a true or great leader. Authenticity is important. Perhaps the arrogant leaders are trying to hide their soft underbellies…

  2. Kerry Thompson

    As a leader and a student of leadership skills, I have come to the conclusion that good leaders build, develop and mentor their best resource, their staff members. Yes leaders ask and pull the best out of their staff members. They ask them to reach farther, produce more effectively and become better from the inside out.
    Servant leadership is a philosophy and practice of leadership, coined and defined by Robert Greenleaf and supported by many leadership and management writers such as James Autry, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Peter Block, Peter Senge, Max DePree, Larry Spears, Margaret Wheatley, Jim Hunter, Kent Keith, Ken Jennings and others. Servant-leaders achieve results for their organizations by giving priority attention to the needs of their colleagues and those they serve. Servant-leaders are often seen as humble stewards of their organization’s resources (human, financial and physical).
    If you have tried this approach or been a recipient of this style, you will never try anything else. Not only are you getting things done but you are building from the inside out.

  3. Check out Bert Martinez’s system on Business Leadership and how to strengthen your company!

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