Want to demonstrate that you have what it takes to be an effective leader and have people follow your direction?
Leaders who want to inspire followership, and I use the word “inspire” deliberately, need to demonstrate not simply their accomplishments but their character. Take pride in what you have done, but use it as a platform to bring people together to do great things, whether it’s increasing sales or saving the planet. Use your leadership for something other than self-aggrandizement.
A sense of humility is essential to leadership because it authenticates a person’s humanity. We humans are frail creatures; we have our faults. Recognizing what we do well—as well as what we do not do so well—is vital to self-awareness and paramount to humility. Here are some ways to demonstrate humility in the workplace.
Temper authority. Power comes with rank but you don’t have to pull it to make it work for you. You can encourage others to make decisions by delegating authority and responsibility. Encourage your people to write their own performance objectives and set team goals. Allow them to make decisions. Your authority comes in the form of imposing order and discipline.
Look to promote others. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman note in their seminal text, First, Break All the Rules, that a characteristic of successful managers is their ability to promote others, sometimes to positions higher than their own. Such managers are talent groomers, they are ones upon whose leadership success of the enterprise rests.
Acknowledge what others do. Few have said it better than legendary Alabama coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant. “If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you.” Practice that attitude always, especially when things are not going well, and your team will rally together because they want you to succeed. In short, humility breeds humility.
Can you be too humble in the workplace? Yes. If you fail to put yourself, or more importantly your ideas, forward, you will be overlooked. Chances for promotion will evaporate—but worse, you will not give anyone a reason to believe in you. While all of us need not lead others, those who do seek to influence, to change, to guide, and to lead their organizations need to find ways to get noticed. Again humility comes to the rescue. That is, if you celebrate team first, self second, people will notice what you and your team have achieved.
To hear John’s leadership insights firsthand, join us Tuesday November 1 for a web seminar. You can register here.
This post is adapted from an article originally posted on HBR.com