The very idea of bad leadership has become so prevalent in the world that the concept of hating your boss has become the norm. From caricature to the depiction in movies, it’s clear that many people relate to the idea that somehow a leader is mean, cranky, and downright evil.
A lot of that has to do with not managing the sudden influx of power and authority- which is a primary catalyst that molds a bad leader. Too much of these two ingredients can cause leaders to become fixated with control, leading to destructive behaviors and treating employees as a means to an end.
Not surprisingly, it harbors fear and loathing with seeing a considerable dip in engagement, morale, and satisfaction. Consequently, the workplace becomes rife with unhappy and stressed out people who’d look forward to leaving their jobs.
Such a style of top-down leadership is counterproductive, outdated, and will do more harm than good in the long run. Luckily, in this new decade, the above depiction is far, far away from the truth.
Today’s leaders are more intuitive, open, and empathetically driven to get the best out of their workforce while ensuring their overall well-being.
When Jose Mujica, Uruguay’s former president, got elected in 2009, he donated his entire salary to charity and forgo the Presidential mansion to go and live in a modest house instead. He has been continuously termed as being too good to be true
. After all, a leader who actually wanted what’s best for his people without looking for any personal gains? That’s certainly something to write to home about.
This leadership style
is what humble leadership is all about. It doesn’t require a leader to donate his salary or such, but it does highlight the importance of leaders having the humility, courage, and insight to admit that even people with lower roles can contribute something beneficial and have something to learn from.
The quality of displaying humility doesn’t make leaders into being seen as weak. A true leader recognizes and accepts that they might have to lead people who are more knowledgeable or have more expertise than him but also have the insight to utilize those qualities to lead the team to greater success.
If by now, the idea of being a humble leader seems even a little bit interesting to you, here’s how you do it.
Be an active listener
Listening is an art form in disguise. Great listeners are able to decipher meanings and clues that the “talkers” would miss out on. But in spite of being sounding so simple, it actually mitigated one major problem that bad leaders display- ordering others to do their jobs.
Here’s the thing. Your job as a leader is not to order someone to a particular thing. Your job is to understand what is required, listen to new perspectives, and decide what would be the best way to go forward.
Very often, leaders would be more interested in the outcomes than the process itself. That usually means that employees’ problems and issues that come with achieving the end result are not heard or addressed.
Thus, it's important that a leader do one significant thing. Ask, “What can I do to help you overcome this problem?”
One of the major perks of being an active listener is the ideas and perspectives people would share with you. Understandably, some of those ideas might not amount to anything but it sure will make that person feel privileged that you took the time to sit and listen to his thoughts.
Quite simply put, some employees understand the business's nitty-gritty that a leader might otherwise be not susceptible to. When you hear and respect employees’ thoughts and ideas, they regularly feel comfortable in being more confident in their jobs.
Share and embrace your mistakes
Human connection is based on being able to share their experiences and feelings. The reasons why leaders might seem so unreachable to the rest may lie with the fact that most of them portray a perfect, no-nonsense persona in front of everyone.
While this certainly might make you seem like an authoritative figure, it might also affect the factor of seeming relatable.
The solution to this is not behaving “cool” or changing your personality. It’s about being transparent, showcasing your growth, and sharing your mistakes. It’s based on admitting that just like everyone else you had to pave your path with your individual struggles and have your own set of imperfections.
Additionally, humble leaders are great at being accountable for any mistakes or insights made on their part. It will not at all decrease your self-esteem but will instead make your employees see you in a new and improved light.
Dialogue, not debates
Humble leadership accounts for understanding different viewpoints without feeling the need to superimpose one’s decision or “winning” an argument.
While, it is understandable that the leader who makes the final decision and that decision might not be agreeable to everyone, but this decision should be made after addressing any concerns that the employees might bring forth.
Also, it is important that leaders be able to place their own ideas and opinions aside, and truly understand and learn what the other person wants to communicate. It’s decidedly the highest form of communication that can happen, inspiring everyone to work better together.
Debates serve only to be focused on “being right” instead of doing what’s best for the team and the organization. A leader should ensure that there is a civil and equal discussion that considers everyone’s opinions on the team and come to a collective decision about what would be the best.
Embrace being ambiguous
Being ambiguous denotes that a leader is open to admitting that he is uncertain or unclear about things. That is an incredibly vulnerable thing to do since everyone will expect you to know how to do things.
However, being ambiguous and being a leader are not mutually exclusive cases. While you might be unclear about the best path to take, you are still going to lead your team. It’s about allowing yourself and your team to learn from each other instead of blindly following orders. If nothing else, it a lesson of interdependence among
Ambiguity opens you up to let others take the stage and share their own experiences, insights, and ideas. It creates a platform for everyone to work together as a team to work through complex problems.
A humble leader should never be mistaken for a weak one. From Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr., there is strength in kindness. When you value, appreciate, and place importance on people, you’ll find that it is much more effective in getting the job done than saying a few harsh words.
It’s high time that we examine the sort of behaviors that we wish to portray not only in our workforces but also in our leaders. Humble leadership will bring about changes in our organization that’ll promote a happier, engaged, and more motivated workforce. People will be able to bring their true selves to work and the happiness quotient will rise exponentially.
However, I am curious as to what you think about advocating for a humble leadership style?