There have been many excellent articles written and discussions had around great leadership traits in recent years. The concept of Servant Leadership from the Agile Movement and the excellent writings David Marquet emphasizing the role of curiosity is but to name but two. Many of these discussions have successfully moved the perception of a leader from an authoritarian figure to one of a collaborator/facilitator.
This morning I came across an excellent article on the role of humility in a leader. You can find the article here.
The article made me realize that the new leadership traits we have been talking about are observable traits of humility or being humble. Curiosity, collaboration, listening, vulnerability, patience, seeking opposing viewpoints, and acknowledging mistakes are all driven authentically from humility.
Can you be curious and questioning without humility? Sure, but you are probably just asking to prove you are correct, not to being open to new ideas.
Can you collaborate without humility? Sure, but you are likely to be promoting your ideas with the goal of convincing others.
Can you seek opposing viewpoints without humility? Sure, but you are doing this usually with the goal of proving your hypothesis, not to advance knowledge.
Can you truly listen without humility? Sure, but you are probably waiting on the edge of your seat for others to stop talking so you can once again lead the discussion.
Humble leaders understand that while they may be accountable for the decision, the entire team is responsible for the decision. And making the best decision is a patient process.
Humility in a Pandemic is needed even more. Whether you are having meetings in WebEx, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom everyone is relegated to the same real estate on the screen. The power dynamics of in-person meetings are minimized, offices and titles are less apparent, and charisma makes a journey to Flatland. Technology makes us more equal.
As a result, imbalances in collaboration, talking, listening, asking, and seeking become even more apparent. One thing I have noticed about great leaders in these Pandemic times – they ask more than they state. And they are quiet and listening the vast majority of the time.
In the past, this may have been seen as being passive, but confidence is required even more to be silent, asking, seeking, and then deciding. And confidence is required even more to admit you don’t know, were wrong, or to promote a position raised by someone else. And that confidence comes from humility.
Yes, great leaders still are decisive, but how they get to great decisions are with humility, patience, and honouring their teams.
Please give the article a read. We should all strive to have Angela Merkel’s Intellectual Humility. It is an example of that old adage – “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know everything”
Pride divides the men, humility joins them – Socrates