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Bear Opinions

The power of humble leadership and how to perfect it…

“Humility. What a beautiful legacy. What a great way to live. And to lead.” - Robin Sharma, leadership expert, author & speaker Although it’s easy to think of humility, or being humble, as a character trait first and foremost, with practice it can be developed as a leadership behaviour. And, if we want to become better leaders, we should practice humility.

Humble leadership has the power to inspire, to persuade, to engender loyalty and to get the best out of people. So, let’s consider the ways in which we can embrace humility to become better at leading the people who look to us for direction and support.

Give others the spotlight

One of the most valuable things a great leader does is give others the opportunity to shine. The humble leader will put their ego to one side and focus on bringing out the best in their team members. This can be as simple as turning conversations away from themselves and towards those they lead and it’s hugely impactful.

In his book ‘Alive at Work’ Dan Cable talks about servant-leaders and how they have ‘the humility, courage and insight to admit they can benefit from the expertise of others who have less power than them’. Rather than feeling threatened by smart people in their teams, humble leaders realise that everyone benefits when knowledge and experience are shared.

Recognising that there are times when your ego prevents you from relinquishing the spotlight is half the battle and will help you to hand it over to others more readily.

Admit when you’re wrong or you don’t know

A big mistake many leaders make is believing they must have all the answers, all the time. The opposite is true, in fact. Admitting that you don’t know or have made a mistake is brave. You’re showing vulnerability which is widely acknowledged as a cornerstone of trust and it gives your colleagues permission to make mistakes and learn from them too.

If businesses are to thrive, every individual must contribute to their team and the wider organisation. Leaders who admit they don’t have all the answers and ask for help encourage people to contribute fully and enable every individual to be part of the solution. If they are also prepared to make mistakes and to apologise, they demonstrate humble leadership.

Listen and learn

A humble attitude helps leaders to stay open to new ideas from people who might not push themselves forward yet have a great pool of knowledge and creativity. When leaders have the courage to realise they may not be the smartest person in the room, and are prepared to listen to those they lead, it shows humility and inspires people.

In practice, this might involve asking those you lead how you can help them to do their jobs better, rather than telling them how to do their jobs. By listening to people and respecting their ideas, you can encourage them to try a different approach where you see it will add value, while respecting that they know how to do their jobs well. This humble approach to leadership will result in people being much more engaged and connected than an ‘I know best’, ego-driven leadership style .

Take responsibility

While the best leaders are prepared to listen, learn and give others the spotlight, they also need to know when it’s time to take responsibility in support of their team. With humility comes the understanding that the buck must stop with you. If your team is struggling or failing, you need to take responsibility and step in to give guidance and find a solution.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

We’ve all known business leaders who take themselves far too seriously, perhaps believing that they need to be serious in order to be credible. But a leader who can see the humour in tricky situations and laugh at themselves when things aren’t going to plan is far more human. They can lighten the heaviest atmosphere and reassure people that things will be ok, while giving them the space to think of creative solutions to problems. A sense of humour can help put things into perspective and the willingness to laugh at yourself shows humility.

The bottom line is that humble leadership gets results. Practicing humility will help you and your team to grow. Connections will be stronger, you’ll bring out the best in people and you’ll inspire everyone around you to be humble too.

Grey Bear has a proven track record of supporting leadership development, including using DISC Insight to help leaders build connections and communicate with impact while retaining authenticity. To find out more, email us: hello@greybearagency.co.uk or call: 01865 950753.

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Emma Clayton

Emma Clayton

Emma has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over 22 years across sales, marketing and communications, and has been part of some of the largest blockbuster product launches over the years.

Emma has a huge passion for the NHS which is infectious and has been instrumental and a leader for some world class medical education programmes, that not only improve lives but improve efficiencies and value to the NHS.

Connect with Emma on LinkedIn or at emma@greybearconsultancy.co.uk

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