A Fine Line Between Humility and Leadership

John Buchan once said, “Without humility there can be no humanity.” Indeed, the quality of our society, and the manner in which we interact with others determines how we connect to one another. Humility offers us a way to appreciate others without our own ego impeding the relationship. Most often, humble people are aware of their worth, and it does not devalue them to place their achievements to the side so that others may shine. Indeed, this is a fundamental trait of a strong leader.

As a leader, showing humility allows others to genuinely connect to their leader while building trust. However, the virtue of humility, like most human traits, must be balanced so that a leader retains sufficient confidence. Without this balance, a leader may be seen as having a lack of courage, and thus considered too weak to lead.

How to Use Humility in Leadership

It is important to recognize that leadership is about others, and therefore leaders must put others first through their continual support and encouragement. This generosity of spirit and selflessness allows their followers to develop their full potential. People are less receptive to learning when their leader is an arrogant know-it-all who treats them as if they are lesser beings. The best leaders do take pride in their own achievements; however, they are equally adept at encouraging and inspiring others to achieve great things, and are quick to acknowledge and praise the accomplishments of others.

Equally important, is the leader’s ability to delegate authority to others, which creates an opportunity for them to grow into their new responsibilities. Commending and rewarding others for their achievements, no matter how small, can give these individuals the confidence they need to continue moving on and up.

Servant Leadership: The Extreme of Humility

This form of leadership, known as servant leadership, runs a fine line between good leadership and one that is perhaps a bit over the top. Utilizing this type of leadership, the leader might engage in behaviors like giving up credit to another, taking blame for another, and buffering others from certain consequences. They work just as hard as everyone else, if not harder, in order to support the group.

This is a selfless form of leadership that ultimately will not benefit the group unless others see, understand and respect the sacrifices being made by their leader.

Under such circumstances, humility can breed humility; as good leaders are able to lead by example. A leader’s sacrifices allow others to shine; a leader’s humility humbles others and may encourage them to humbly support other people in turn.

Humility Can Allow the Best to Step Forward

Through humility, a leader can ask for help from others who may have more experience or vision regarding a specific task. A humble leader is able to admit their weaknesses, and delegate authority to others who have certain strengths the leader may lack. Such a leader is secure enough in him or herself to admit a weakness, and neutralize it, by giving power to another in the group who can bring strength to the specific area.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Humility?

Is it possible to be too humble in leadership? Leaders must embody a sense of strength and ability that encourages others to live in the same manner. People must believe in their leaders, must sense that the leader can guide and support them. In this regard, too much humility in sharing yourself and strengths with others may degrade the relationship’s foundation. Humility earns the most respect when it is followed by great actions; if people are not aware of those achievements, your humility may not seem as inspirational.

It takes a strong sense of self to humble oneself for the sake of another, something that great leaders do every day. Humility is a marvelous leadership tool that most of us would do well to emulate in our own lives. After all, each of us must assume a leadership role at some point – perhaps as older siblings, parents, or grandparents – and doing so humbly provides the greatest benefit to everyone involved. Humility offers humanity the opportunity to support one another through respect and receptiveness and ultimately enriches the fabric of our global community.

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