Humble Leaders Help Others Flower.
Recently I read an article by Kathy Caprino in which she interviewed Bill George, author of True North, you can read it in full here. Caprino was inquiring of George regarding what has changed and what has remained true about leadership over the past decade.
During this interview George noted that today’s business leaders are very different from those previously who placed an emphasis on charisma and style. These leaders were aloof, they led through structured hierarchies, and focused on exerting power over people. They were preoccupied with short-term gains, e.g. the company’s stock price, failing to address the company’s long-term earning potential.
Today, authenticity has become the “gold standard for leadership”. Leaders today need to be, and mostly are, more open and collaborative, empower their followers and teams to lead, and recognise they must serve their corporate and public citizens.
To achieve this gold standard leaders need to become more self-aware to gain an understandings of how and why we reacted to certain circumstances, and how our crucibles, our onerous trials have defined our character.
By gaining an understanding and acceptance of ourself (the good and the bad), we can become a confident leader who can empower others to perform at their best.
This is particularly important when leading Millennials. They want to follow a leader who communicates a clear vision, and who empowers rather than commands them to both follow and lead.
Millennials do not build a leader/follower relationship based simply on authority, those relationships are born out of trust.
Millennial leaders work well in an empowering, collaborative environment and rise to the challenge of serving causes greater than themselves, where the outcomes are more important than who receives credit for them.
When asked what leadership skills have emerged in the last decade as critical for leaders and an organisations success, George noted the top 5 skills as:
- Inspiring people with a vision
- Empowering your teammates
- Collaborating with diverse teams
- Appreciating cultural and ethnic differences on the global level, and
- Being open and transparent with your entire organization
This is all great stuff, but there was nearly a throw away line near the end of this interview which, if overlooked, doom us to become and average though admired and good leader.
It is also something we should value as leaders if we wish to have a long lasting and genuine impact on leading and raising millennial leadership.
Concluding the interview, George highlighted the fact that to become a truly great leader, one who is genuinely authentic, requires humility.
‘Great leaders have humility to acknowledge their mistakes, weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and the confidence to surround themselves with people who are more competent in certain areas and to ask others for help. This humanizes leaders in positions of power and enables them to be authentic. Showing your vulnerability is a way to develop connections of the heart, which is the basis for authentic relationships.’
Humility is not a “trick” a leader can use to manipulate followers, or it will appear unauthentic and backfire. Neither is it a “skill” that a leader learns to apply in different situations. It is a time honoured, cross cultural virtue that influences our behaviours and that of others.
Humility, like all other virtues (such as wisdom, justice/honesty/fairness, fortitude/courage, temperance/self restraint/control and gratitude), can be learned only if one places genuine value on it.
The value we place on humility comes from our belief that is beneficial in our life, both personal and public, and to those we serve/lead. One of the benefits of humility is it increases our self-awareness and helps us to become more open and collaborative.
However, humility becomes challenging as it challenges our perceptions of what humility actually looks like, and laying humility as a foundation stone in our lives creates an and/both equation.
Most of our lives we live by an either/or equation - if we push hard, promote our achievements, advance our carers at the expense of others then we will become successful, affluent, respected, admired and climb the corporate ladder.
Humility helps us maintain pride without arrogance, to become both an effective leader and follower, the greatest and the least, to be at the top of the ladder and a servant.
Humility changes that equation to an outcome where both our personal success and admiration may be possible, and the success and admiration lavished on our followers can be simultaneously achieved.