Researchers led at University at Buffalo School of Management by Bradley Owens asked 16 CEOs, 20 mid-level leaders, and 19 front-line leaders from assorted organizations (military, manufacturing, health care, financial services, retailing, and religious) to describe in detail how humble leadership performs in the workplace. This study showed that humble leaders:
- lead by example
- admit their mistakes and
- recognize their followers’ strengths.
Leaders who are more open and empathetic with those they lead are better positioned to build their team. Those leaders who are open with those they lead are better liked and are more effective.
In further defining an effective humble leader Ron Edmondson, a Church planter and pastor, gives these 10 characteristics:
- Dangerous Trust – Humility always demands a certain level of trust. A humble leader is willing to take a risk on others, trusting them with the sacredness of the vision, even at the chance they may be disappointed with the outcome.
- Sincere Investment – Humble leaders know the vision is bigger and will last longer than they will, so they willingly invest in others, raising up and maturing new leaders.
- Gentle, but Strong – One can’t be a leader and be weak. Every position of leadership will provide a challenge to the leader, but humble leaders have learned the balance between being gentle and remaining strong. (Think Jesus!)
- Readily Admits Mistakes – Everyone makes mistakes. In fact, we often learn more through failure than through success. The humble leader is quick to admit when he or she has done wrong and deals with the fault-out without casting blame or making excuses.
- Forgives easily – Leadership is filled with disappointment; often at the expense of other’s mistakes. A humble leader forgives easily, remembering how many times he or she has been forgiven.
- Quickly diverts attention – We all like to be recognized for accomplishments, but a humble leader is quick to divert attention to others, sharing the limelight for successes with those, who many times, may have even had more to do with the success than the leader did. They celebrate the success of others louder than personal success
- Remains thankful – A humble leader is appreciative of the input of others into his or her leadership. So much so, that a humble leader naturally praises the actions of others far more than the time spent patting themselves on the back for personal accomplishments. Humble leaders recognize that all good gifts come from above.
- Recognizes Limitations – No one can do everything. A humble leader has the ability to say, “I can’t do that or I’m not the one who should”.
- Shares authority – Humble leaders don’t take all the key assignments for themselves, but gives out prime responsibility and authority to people he or she is leading.
- Invites feedback – A humble leader wants to learn from his or her mistakes and wants to continually see improvement. Humble leaders initiate other’s suggestions and feedback, not waiting until complaints come, but personally asking for the input.
Ron Edmondson concludes this list of 1o by saying that, “Humility is not putting yourself down as a leader. It’s ultimately recognizing who you are in view of Christ and others.”