Humility is defined as “the quality and/or state of not thinking you are better than anyone else.” When you have made it to the huge conference room and are seated with the suits and powerful figureheads in your organization- what changes? Does the title and other executive accoutrements give you a license to forget the plight of another human namely your employees?
Some of the best leaders in our history are remembered not mainly for their professional pursuits and contributions, but because of how they made people think and feel. For years, we have tried to get to the root of what makes for a successful leader. There’s the theory of emotional intelligence, there are 360 assessments, Myers-Briggs inventories- yet with all of this psychological insight- we still have the wrong people in leadership positions. Moreover, the poor underlings remain where they are to scribe the latest and greatest stories of poor leadership via water-cooler conversations, exit interviews, abrupt resignations etc.
How does humility help business leaders?
It allows your leaders to have compassion when an employee becomes terminally ill and needs flexibility due to failing health and ongoing treatment. Humility provides a different framework for viewing an employee that may be having the worse year of their life due to domestic issues. Additionally, it allows you to see your employees as fellow human beings that are deserving of fair treatment in all things pertaining to salary, upward mobility, development etc.- you know the kinds of things that draw people to your company in the first place.
More often than not, I continue to be approached by people that have never or rarely seen humility in their leadership. What a shame! If you are bringing in business, laying out the new plans for company growth, all while seducing your investors with your witty charm- congratulations you have handily won over your investors, CEO and all the “beautiful people” at the top. The bigger question is how many chalk outlines lead to you? How many casualties have you caused on your road to leadership stardom?
If you have lost track, you may want to rethink your strategy as a leader. Here are some things I know to be true:
1) If you are a jerk and you show no interest in your employees, they will not be productive, they will not enjoy their work and they will use your time and theirs to find something better.
2) If you are a malicious jerk (the kind that goes after people for folly), your employees will not be productive, they will undermine any expectations you have of them. Additionally, they will likely leave and sue those beloved Brooks Brothers pants off of you.
3) If you are a leader and a passive-aggressive jerk, your employees will see right through you and everything I said in 1 and 2 will follow.
How is this helpful?
It’s helpful to know that you don’t have to be a jerk to be an effective leader. You need to know that showing compassion and humility will speak many more volumes to who you are and why you deserve that title where your employees are concerned. I hear the “but, Janine all the other leaders are like this- I can’t be the odd one out?” My answer: tough shit. No one said this leadership stuff was going to be easy. Sometimes you have to be willing to stand tall in your own truth as a person and as a leader. It may be possible that in you doing so, your counterparts will see the virtues of leading with humility and follow suit.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
Just so you all know, I am dedicated to awakening companies and leaders to the importance of leading with integrity, intelligence and compassion. I’m also a sucker for companies doing it right. Let me know how you have been successful in ensuring your leaders lead with humility.