True leadership is about who you are

humble leader

The Power of Humble Leadership: Succeeding Without Arrogance

A humble leader can create a positive work environment, build trust and strong relationships, and be more effective in their role.

Humility is a trait that is often associated with leadership. It refers to the quality of being modest, respectful, and not overly focused on oneself. 

In the context of leadership, humility is an important trait because it allows leaders to admit when they don’t know something, be open to feedback, acknowledge the contributions of others, be willing to admit mistakes and learn from them, show respect for others and avoid taking credit for the work of others.

"A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves."

5 benefits of being a humble leader

  1. Better decision-making: Humility allows leaders to admit when they don’t know something, which can lead to better decision-making as they will be more likely to seek out and consider different perspectives.
  2. Greater effectiveness: Humble leaders are better able to connect with others and build strong relationships, which can help them to be more effective in their role.
  3. Increased creativity: A humble leader is more open to new ideas and perspectives, which can lead to increased creativity and innovation.
  4. Improved team morale: Humility can create a positive work environment and promote trust, leading to improved team morale and better collaboration.
  5. Greater resilience: Humble leaders are better able to handle setbacks and learn from mistakes, which can help them to be more resilient and adaptable in the face of change.
Humble leaders are less likely to be swayed by their own ego.

What are characteristics of humble leadership?

In the context of leadership, humility is the quality of being modest, respectful, and not overly focused on oneself. This can manifest in a number of ways, including:

  • Recognizing one’s own limitations and areas for growth
  • Being open to feedback and criticism
  • Acknowledging the contributions of others
  • Being willing to admit mistakes and learn from them
  • Showing respect for others, regardless of their position or status
  • Avoiding taking credit for the work of others
  • Being dedicated to the success of the team or organization, rather than just one’s own success.


What are downsides of being a humble leader?

While humility can be a valuable trait in a leader, there can also be downsides to being overly humble. Some potential downsides include:

  • Lack of assertiveness: Humble leaders may struggle to assert themselves and their ideas, which can make it difficult for them to effectively lead and make decisions.
  • Difficulty in setting boundaries: Humble leaders may find it hard to set boundaries and delegate tasks, leading to them becoming overworked and stressed.
  • Lack of visibility: Humble leaders may not draw attention to themselves or their accomplishments, which can make it harder for them to gain recognition and advance in their careers.
  • Difficulty in leading in crisis or high-stress situations: Humble leaders may find it hard to take charge and make quick decisions in crisis situations, which can lead to confusion and poor outcomes.
  • Being taken advantage of: Humble leaders may be more susceptible to being taken advantage of by others, as they may not assert themselves or their needs effectively.
By balancing humility with other leadership qualities like assertiveness, decisiveness, and visibility, these drawbacks can be minimized. Humility is a strength, but it should not be at the expense of being able to lead effectively.

How do leaders develop humility?

Humility is a lifelong learning process and can be developed over time with consistent practice and effort. It involves several steps, such as:

  1. Reflecting on one’s own limitations and areas for growth: Take time to reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses, and be honest with yourself about where you need to improve.
  2. Seeking feedback: Ask for feedback from others, including employees, peers, and superiors. Listen actively and critically to the feedback, and be open to suggestions on how to improve.
  3. Acknowledging the contributions of others: Recognize and appreciate the contributions of others, and give credit where it’s due. Show appreciation for the work and ideas of others, and create opportunities for others to take on leadership roles.
  4. Learning from mistakes: Be willing to admit mistakes, learn from them and take action to avoid making the same mistake again.
  5. Showing empathy: Put yourself in the shoes of others, and try to understand their perspectives. Practice active listening, and ask open-ended questions to learn more about others’ thoughts, feelings and ideas.
  6. Setting an example: Lead by example and model humble behavior. Show respect for others, regardless of their position or status, and be willing to admit when you don’t know something.
  7. Practice humility: Cultivate a habit of humility by engaging in regular self-reflection, practicing mindfulness, and reading about the topic of humility.
humble leader

How do you stay humble in success?

Staying humble in success can be challenging, but there are several things that leaders can do to maintain humility:

  • Remember where you came from: Reflect on the people, opportunities, and experiences that have helped you to achieve success, and be grateful for them. Remembering where you came from can help to keep your success in perspective.
  • Keep learning: Stay open to new ideas, perspectives, and feedback. Recognize that you still have much to learn and be willing to admit when you don’t know something.
  • Give back: Share your success with others by giving back to your community or supporting causes that you are passionate about. This can help to put your success in perspective and make it more meaningful.
  • Stay grounded: Surround yourself with people who will keep you grounded and remind you of who you are. Spend time with family and friends, and maintain normal activities that you enjoy, this will help to keep you in touch with reality.
  • Be humble: Practice humility by showing respect for others, regardless of their position or status, and by acknowledging the contributions of others. Avoid taking credit for the work of others and avoid boasting about your accomplishments.
  • Be Self-Aware: Be mindful of your own thoughts, behaviors and actions. Recognize when you are becoming arrogant or self-important and take steps to correct it.

It’s important to remember that success is not a destination but a journey, and that humility is a virtue that should be practiced regularly to maintain balance and perspective.

What are examples of humble leaders?

  1. Mahatma Gandhi: Gandhi was known for his humility and non-violent approach to leadership. He advocated for peaceful resistance and was instrumental in the Indian independence movement.
  2. Nelson Mandela: Mandela was known for his humility and forgiveness. He led the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and became the country’s first black president. He used his leadership to unite the country, and was a strong advocate for reconciliation and forgiveness.
  3. Mother Teresa: Mother Teresa was a Catholic nun who devoted her life to serving the poor. She was known for her humility, selflessness, and dedication to serving others.


Recommended books

  1. “Leading with Humility: 12 Leadership Lessons from Pope Francis” by Jack Shea – A book that explores the leadership style of Pope Francis and how his humility has been key to his success.
  2. The Extraordinary Power of Leader Humility: Thriving Organizations & Great Results by Marilyn Gist PhD – This book offers a model of leader humility derived from three questions people ask of their leaders: Who are you? Where are we going? Do you see me? 
  3. Humility: The Secret Ingredient of Success by Pat Williams – With powerful insights from the sports, business, entertainment, military, and church worlds, Pat Williams will prove that you can be confident and assertive—and still be genuinely humble. 
  4. Start With Humility: Lessons from America’s Quiet CEOs on How to Build Trust and Inspire Followers by Merwyn A. Hayes and Michael D. Comer – This book reveals the common traits among some of the top leaders in the world who lead through humility.

If you’d like full overview of leadeship skills, read A Guide To Effective Leadership Skills – Mastering The Fundamentals

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