If you've been following my column for a while, you've noticed humility is one of my favorite leadership traits to write about.
But because this word has different effects on different people, it's often misunderstood. Some interpret it as having a lack of self-confidence or being timid--traits too soft to survive in the harshness of business life.
Far from the truth.
The word first struck me in the context of leadership when Jim Collins mentioned it in his seminal book Good to Great.
Collins examined 1,435 "good" companies, and out of the masses he discovered 11 unique companies that became "great." The insanely successful leaders at those 11 companies were known for directing their ego away from themselves to the larger goal of leading their company to greatness.
Collins found these leaders had a paradoxical mix of intense professional will and extreme personal humility. They are described as modest, with a determination to create results by shifting the focus away from themselves and continually recognizing the contributions of others.
Bruna Martinuzzi, president of Clarion Enterprises and author of The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow, observes these five habits in leaders who practice humility:
1. Stop talking.
Allow the other person to be in the limelight. There is something very liberating in this strategy.
2. Three magical words.
Use these words for better results than a week's worth of executive coaching with me (or anyone else, for that matter): "You are right."
3. Catch yourself.
If you slip into preaching or telling others what to do without permission, think again. Is imposing your point of view overtaking discretion? Is your correction of others reflective of your own needs?
4. Seek input from peers.
Wondering how you are doing on your leadership path? Ask. It takes humility to say "How am I doing?" And even more humility to consider the answer.
5. Set an example.
There's no better way to encourage the practice of humility in your circle than by practicing it yourself. Every time you share credit for successes with others, you reinforce the ethos.
Interesting things happen when we apply the humble approach. It opens us up to possibilities. We choose open-mindedness and curiosity over protecting our point of view. We become more willing to learn from what others have to offer. We forget about being perfect and better enjoy being in the moment. It also improves relationships, reduces anxiety, and enhances one's self-confidence.
There's clear competitive advantage in mastering humility.
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