Humility is the essence of good leadership

Humility is the essence of good leadership

I grew up in a family of business people. My relatives operated small shops and I have witnessed various types of business practices – some good, others bad. Because I have been surrounded by this environment my entire life, I learned a lot and have seen the result of running a business with the sole goal of making profits. The results are not good.

So, I made a promise to myself when I started my organization that I would be a different kind of leader – one that focuses on people and not on profits. This has worked out very well because my workers know that I will not take advantage of them and, as a result, they are loyal and committed to our mission.

While my people-centered approach has been good for the business, as our organization grew, so did the bubble that surrounded me. This often happens with businesses that start small and grow, especially with family businesses. The leader is in full leadership mode in the beginning, but as operations expand, his or her role involves less face-to-face contact.

The more success a leader or manager achieves, the more people come on board and they begin doing the work that the leader once did when the company was small.  This frees the leader to take up other duties, but puts a dangerous distance between them and the front line.

When you are in a leadership bubble, it becomes much more difficult to interact with those that are the soul of the company – the front line. That is because the more success you encounter, the greater the distance is between you and others. Subordinates will begin telling what you want to hear or may withhold important information for fear of causing stress. And when this happens, you can count on your organization going downhill fast.

Leaders need to know what is happening in the organizations they helped to create. They need to come out of their bubble and interact with everyone. This very thing happened to me when my company began growing and I began to lose touch with the people.

Thankfully, this downward spiral was recognized early and I was able to reverse course and get back in touch with my roots. To do this, one first needs to recognize that there is a problem. Of course, this can be difficult to do if you are insulated and surrounded by “yes” men and women.

Instead, make sure to have people around you who are comfortable enough that they can be open and honest when discussing company matters. Place trust in these people and let them know that it is their job to keep you informed of everything, even if it is bad news.

Create such an environment at your organization that each and every member feels trusted and respected. This starts with your own humility. When you approach things in a humble manner, you view others as your equals. This results in a deeper and more meaningful connection with people.

People appreciate humility because a humble person puts them at ease and they are more likeable and appreciated than ego-driven people. When leaders show humility, they burst the bubble that surrounds them and can then lead their organization with love and compassion.

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