Humility – Why is it a Dirty Word in Leadership?

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Leadership and humility – does it really go together? Is there a direct connection between successful corporations and the level of humility displayed by the leader? In some cases, I have seen a leader criticize someone for showing humility and sharing accolades instead of taking all of the credit themselves. What message does this send to your organization? It is difficult to establish a culture of teamwork if your leader does not understand that one person does not make an organization.

Leadership in an organization is necessary; without it you are on a journey without a destination, let alone a road map. In some cases, leaders tend to confuse accountability with leadership. I once spoke with someone who described his view on leadership and accountability. He felt that when something went wrong, it was his job to accept responsibility for the mistake. When something went well, he made sure his team received the praise, leaving himself out of the equation. While he held the position of leadership, he felt that his team was responsible for all of the successes, he was just there to meet their needs so they could take care of the customers. To me, this was a great example of a humble leader. He understood that the success of the organization was a team effort, not a direct result of his title.

To some, humility challenges the notion that we are all experts in our fields. As leaders, we need to have a high degree of proficiency in our positions, however, even the most skilled individual has an opportunity to learn something new. Just because we do not have all of the answers does not show a weakness in leadership. Just the opposite – a humble leader demonstrates that it is okay to ask for help from others, working together toward a shared goal.

Why is humility important at the end of the day? If an organization is successful, and the leader does not recognize those who made it possible, they are showing their employees a lack of caring and respect. In turn, it becomes difficult for those employees to respect their leader as their efforts go un-noticed. If your employees feel good about what they are doing, because you share the accolades, they will provide excellent service to their customers. If you always accept the praise and do not recognize those who made the success possible, do you believe your employees will continue to work hard to make you look good?

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