How humility can be profitable

Did you know that humility can be profitable for your business? In this video, I explore the merits of humble leadership. I will explain what makes a humble leader, why they can be one of the most effective leaders, and how you can become one. 

What makes a humble leader? 

A humble leader is someone who can listen to others without judgment, consider their opinions, and admit when they are wrong.  

Humble leaders don’t have low self-esteem. In fact, they are incredibly self-aware. But they don’t make it about themselves. They view leadership as a service for others—in business, that means serving their teams and their clients. They understand their strengths and their weaknesses, and because they don’t lead with an ego, they make everyone feel psychologically safe around them.  

They give credit where credit is due and make sure that they recognise everyone’s efforts, but they don’t take offense when credit is not given to them.  

Humble leaders are honest and put value in transparency because transparency ensures fairness. They are honest when they make mistakes and focus on learning from mistakes. They encourage honesty in their teams, focusing less on laying blame and focusing more on finding solutions and learning from such mistakes.  

Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz and SparkToro, is an example of a someone who practices humble leadership. About a decade ago, he published his performance review on his company’s blog to encourage a discussion on his performance and to ensure that he is held accountable for his goals. 

What makes humble leaders effective leaders? 

Humble leaders are effective because they value transparency. In Fishkin’s case, transparency leads to performance accountability. Transparency also ensures that false gossip and disinformation that causes harm and discord do not permeate in organisations. Transparency encourages equality in organisations. For example, when a leader’s performance review is published in the organisation, it gives the impression that everyone is held to the same standard. This motivates team members to perform well. 

Furthermore, because humble leaders nurture an environment of psychological safety, team members are encouraged to speak up, respect differences in opinion, and champion the best ideas. Humble leaders, through example, show team members how to work with integrity. They recognise the efforts of their team members, which lead to healthy working relationships and workplace cultures. 

How do you practice humility in leadership? 

  1. Ask questions and listen to your team 

Curiosity is a trait of a humble leader. They know that they don’t know everything, neither do they hold the solutions for every team problem. They recognise that other team members may have ideas, maybe even better ideas than their own. Because they champion the best ideas, humble leaders will ask their team questions so that they might learn, and they will listen intently and actively.  

  1. Focus on learning

We ask questions and listen to our team because we want to learn and we want to find the best ideas. And so the focus of communication is to learn from each other. Nobody has a monopoly of information. Everyone is a resource. Everyone can contribute to the team’s goals. This encourages people to share communicate openly and find ways to make things better. 

  1. Create a safe space for team members to express and test new ideas

Championing the best ideas mean being open to experimentation. But we all know that not all experiments lead to success—some fail, and those lead to important lessons. Humble leaders understand that we learn more from our failure than successes, and so create a psychological safe space for team members to express and test new ideas.  

  1. Take responsibility and hold yourself accountable for your actions

When you make a mistake, own up to it and move forward by learning from it. And when a team member comes to you because they made a mistake, recognise that they are holding themselves accountable and remind them that they should focus on learning from this mistake. Don’t find fault or lay blame. Instead, find ways so that nobody else repeats the mistake. 

A humble leader is someone who leads to serve others. They lead with self-awareness, push for the best ideas, understand the value of learning from mistakes, and take accountability. In doing so, they create a safe space for team members to express themselves, experiment, and learn from such mistakes.  



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