A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. ~Lao Tzu
A true leader is not afraid to show his or her human side, especially humility. This valuable trait can inspire and motivate others to support a leader through thick and thin. However, it’s hard being humble in today’s modern and interconnected world. We share photos of ourselves on social media often having us appear alarmingly self-absorbed, the exact opposite of humble. The catch is that those who are served this false impression of perfection can see right through it, so what’s the point?
Humility is about taking a step back when your first instinct may be to boast. It’s about giving other people credit even though you might have played the most important part in the process. It’s about bringing people together and making them feel part of something. As we are all leaders in our own right, we can learn from the below signs of humble leaders.
1. They Inspire Others to Follow Them
All too often, people think that leaders just issue orders, telling everyone else what to do. While leaders do have the responsibility of assigning tasks, they are only leaders if people WANT to follow them.
Employees, for example, do what their leader says if they want to keep their jobs. Eventually, though, there comes a time when he or she will need something from them. Whether that is loyalty or extra time devoted to a certain project, all leaders need buy-in from their people. Humble leaders will achieve what they need because their employees believe in them and their vision.
2. They Practice Self-Care
One of the ironies of humble leaders is that they can take breaks, show exhaustion, and even say when they are unsure about a decision. While it might seem like they are showing weakness, they are actually exhibiting true strength.
Leaders who always strive to appear strong are often insecure in their ability to lead. Driven by fear, they try to ensure that nothing can be done without them. Because of this, they trap themselves into needing to be available 24/7, double checking work, and tweaking things unnecessarily. This leads to negative outcomes — they burn out quickly and ultimately, their health suffers. Also, their employees don’t feel valued and appreciated and will leave as fast as they can.
Humble leaders train and empower their teams to operate perfectly well without them. This leaves them free to focus on self-care when they need it. They believe in their team, which gives them the opportunity to take time away, knowing that their team can also function without their constant oversight.
3. They Don’t Need Things Done Their Way
Insecure leaders often believe that their way is the best way. If they come in early and leave late, they expect their employees to do the same. If they put in an 80-hour week, they expect everyone else to do so.
Humble leaders recognize that everyone brings something different to the table and has a pattern or style that works best for them. Such leaders are more likely to allow flexible arrangements like allowing employees to telecommute. Alternatively, let them schedule their own hours according to the needs of their personal life. While insecure leaders may appear to keep everyone on the same page, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are getting the best from their employees. A humble leader brings out the best in their people by helping them find their optimal place.
4. They Work with the Team
When you encounter a team led by a humble leader, it is sometimes difficult to tell who the leader is. They don‘t need everybody to immediately know who is boss. Humble leaders do not need their ego constantly stroked, which allows employees to have a more grounded and honest relationship than they might have with a lesser leader. They are not afraid to say when they don’t share the same opinion, or when they outright disagree with a decision.
It’s not that these employees are disrespectful, far from it! They are the voice needed that shows an alternative view, lighting the path to new, better ideas and solutions. They only seem disrespectful because of a culture that is used to leaders demanding subservient behavior from their employees.
While ego-driven leaders need to be in the spotlight and demand recognition for all of their achievements, they may treat team achievements as their own. Some of the best leaders often go overlooked because they are more concerned with making those around them look better than they do. Humble leaders will often put in extra hours on their own, and still deflect the spotlight to let their team shine instead, and this behavior is exactly what makes their team happy, efficient and successful.
About Ashley Wilson
Ashley Wilson is a digital nomad and freelance writer from San Diego, California. When she is not busy baking cupcakes, Ashley loves writing about business, digital marketing, and finance. Connect with Ashley via Twitter.