One of my earliest lessons in leadership was taught unexpectedly by a leader, who on reflection, was more of a dictator & dominator, than he was a leader. It was a lesson in humility – and this leader was anything but humble! He would take over conversations, take over sales calls, sales meetings and sales strategy sessions, and completely de-position his people. The end result was that whilst the company may have won some business (the Battle), ultimately they ended up losing the War because the customers were conditioned to only deal with this leader and the Account Team were considered incidental and irrelevant. And at every opportunity, this leader sought the limelight, and all the accolades that came with it.
By contrast, there was another leader within the business who was achieving great results and also achieving outstanding employee engagement scores. His team loved him and would do anything for him. This piqued my curiosity to understand how he was getting such great results as well as having his team so incredibly engaged, so I asked him. His answer was astounding ; ‘It is humility – one of the most endearing leadership qualities.’ And here’s why :
- Humble Leaders are authentic. Not only are they authentic, they also have great self belief and self confidence, and they do not have to prove to anyone their leadership credentials and capabilities. They are very comfortable with who they are, and are not afraid to admit or show their vulnerabilities.
- Humble Leaders will promote and edify others. They do not need to be in the limelight – in fact most of them would rather not be in the limelight. They recognise that their success is built on the success of their team and hence will allow their team to take the accolades. Having said that though, if things go ‘pear shaped’, the leader is the first person jumping in to ‘right the ship’. They take full responsibility.
- Humble Leaders do not take advantage of their positional power. Whilst they may possess this power, they do not rely upon it in order to influence others and make a difference. Often these leaders are sitting at Levels 4 or 5 on John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership, developing their people, leveraging themselves, and ultimately creating & developing other leaders.
- Humble Leaders consistently seek opportunities to help and to serve others. They are ‘developers’ of people and will always look at how they can inspire and encourage others to unleash their full potential. In doing so, their default is to put their people before themselves, every single time.
- Humble Leaders are open to other people’s perspectives and opinions and will actively seek their input. Whilst they may have experience, wisdom and specific knowledge, they are not arrogant to think that their way is the only way, nor will it be the better way. They understand that tapping into other people’s perspectives can often make a positive difference and ‘lift the tide’ of the entire team.
- Humble Leaders are open to admitting their mistakes and will use them to improve and develop themselves, as well as using the mistakes as an opportunity to teach and develop their people. They know that a leader who is not making mistakes is a leader who is not pushing themselves hard enough, so they will continue to push themselves and encourage their team to make the leaders long road become the team’s short cut.
Towards the end of our conversation, the humble leader looked me straight in the eye and said ; “And most importantly, do not think for a second that humble leaders are weak and easy to walk over – in fact, the opposite is often the case. Humble leaders are very strong, supremely confident, back themselves consistently, but also know that they do not have all of the answers. And that is why humility is an endearing leadership quality. So be humble, and become a great leader”.
This advice became the foundation of my leadership philosophy and I attempted to strongly ground my leadership around humility from that moment on. Whilst I have not always been successful, I do believe that humility has allowed me to lead some extraordinary teams and be part of some outstanding success. And I truly believe that humility is in indeed an endearing leadership quality.
To your continued leadership success!!
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Darren is a Sales Leadership and Sales Performance Coach, Facilitator & Speaker. He is an experienced and committed coach with a background of sales leadership success in large organisations. He applies a genuine focus to coaching and developing high performing sales leaders who are looking to unleash the potential of themselves and their teams.