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3 ways to be a more humble leader

3 min read


Everyone thinks the strongest business leaders are bold and commanding, but that’s not always the case.

Plenty of studies have concluded that humility produces the best leaders because humble leaders empower their employees. They give credit where credit is due.

By recognizing that no small roles exist in a company, only small players who lose sight of humility, leaders can bring out the best in their teams. When people feel like they matter, they become more innovative, competent and confident in their work.

However, don’t take humility too far. If you place a veil over yourself, you’ll appear weak and colleagues won’t respect you. Instead, find a balance between self-assurance and gratitude.

If you’re having trouble striking that balance, try these three strategies:

1. Say hello to everyone

Acknowledging the custodian, the intern, the CFO, and everyone in between creates an atmosphere of camaraderie and will break down company silos. As an approachable leader, people won’t be afraid to tell you of the small and big things that can make the difference in both sales and company culture.

One way to promote communication in your company is through an open space design that removes individual offices. That setup conveys the message that, despite the many jobs in the business, all roles are vital.

2. Listen to others

While it’s important to greet everyone, don’t be superficial. Truly listen to what colleagues are saying. Feedback helps identify where growth is needed, and getting good feedback requires real and authentic conversations.

For example, at Rockwell Automation, leaders have made open dialogue such a large part of their culture. One employee felt comfortable enough to engage in a discussion with hundreds of co-workers about a new benefits policy for same-sex partners. With honest and open questions and answers, people on both sides of the issue were able to see the reasoning behind the policy.

3. Accept a compliment and move on

When someone praises your accomplishments, it’s best just to say, “Thank you.” More often than not, your success occurred with a group effort. While you should take pride in your victories, you don’t want to be a sore winner.

When I won a “40 Under 40” award for San Antonio business leaders, I never said anything. Yes, I was fired up, but I always possessed a sense of gratitude and fulfillment. I didn’t let it go to my head. If someone ever mentioned the accolade, I tried to change the subject after a brief comment.

Humble leaders might seem quiet, but they earn respect. They know when to let others take credit and when to rise to the occasion. By incorporating humility into your leadership, you’ll become a stronger leader.

Rick Martinez founded Life Pivot, a company that teaches people to cultivate purpose, passion, and productivity into finding a work-life balance that creates success. Life Pivot is headquartered in San Antonio. Learn how to work less and make more by subscribing to its purpose hack.

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