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How to Get Your Employees to Go Beyond the Call of Duty

A recent study shows that employees who work for humble leaders are more likely to work harder and come up with better ideas.

Being humble is not just a virtue, it's an important leadership practice. If you're overly self-promotional and rule your team with an I'm-always-right attitude, chances are your employees will feel alienated, resentful, and unwilling to go the extra mile for you.

Recent research shows the impact of selfless leadership. In a survey by the Catalyst Research Center for Advancing Leader Effectiveness, which collected 1,500 responses from workers around the world, the results were clear:

"Employees who perceived altruistic behavior from their managers also reported being more innovative, suggesting new product ideas and ways of doing work better," write Catalyst's Jeanine Prime and Elizabeth Salib in Harvard Business Review. "Moreover, they were more likely to report engaging in team citizenship behavior, going beyond the call of duty, picking up the slack for an absent colleague--all indirect effects of feeling more included in their workgroups."

Below, read how you can make your leadership style more selfless and humble.

Share your mistakes

If you use your mistakes as teachable moments for your employees, you will not only be doing something humble, you'll help foster an environment that promotes self-improvement. "When leaders showcase their own personal growth, they legitimize the growth and learning of others; by admitting to their own imperfections, they make it okay for others to be fallible, too," Prime and Salib write. "We also tend to connect with people who share their imperfections and foibles--they appear more 'human,' more like us. Particularly in diverse workgroups, displays of humility may help to remind group members of their common humanity and shared objectives."

Host a dialogue, not a debate

Being a humble leader means you have to get rid of the attitude that you're the boss and you're always right. "Too often leaders are focused on swaying others and 'winning' arguments. When people debate in this way, they become so focused on proving the validity of their own views that they miss out on the opportunity to learn about other points of view," the researchers write. "Inclusive leaders are humble enough to suspend their own agendas and beliefs. In so doing, they not only enhance their own learning but they validate followers' unique perspectives."

Accept your own uncertainty

By acknowledging the limits of your knowledge and skills, you will provide opportunities for your employees to bring better ideas to the table. "Ambiguity and uncertainty are par for the course in today's business environment. So why not embrace them? When leaders humbly admit that they don't have all the answers, they create space for others to step forward and offer solutions," Prime and Salib write in HBR. "They also engender a sense of interdependence. Followers understand that the best bet is to rely on each other to work through complex, ill-defined problems."

Be a follower

While this initially may sounds like questionable advice, try it out. "Inclusive leaders empower others to lead. By reversing roles, leaders not only facilitate employees' development but they model the act of taking a different perspective, something that is so critical to working effectively in diverse teams."

 

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IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: May 14, 2014

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported on the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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