Can a successful leader lead with power and persuasion in one hand and humility in the other? This is often a topic of conversation as I work with leaders. The answer is yes. With grace, authentic leaders blend humility, power, and influence.
The attribute of humility is not often celebrated in performance reviews, nor is it commonly a part of leadership development programs. But, when it is, it is powerful. It offers authentic leaders an avenue of vulnerability.
We live in an era where our confidence is masked with self-celebration and bravado. At work, ambitious people enthusiastically self-promote in order to be noticed for promotion and stretch positions.
Yet, as a professor of business psychology Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic says, “Bluster and the alpha instinct often get mistaken for ability and effectiveness.” We have a large volume of evidence about the perils of hubris and, consequently, leadership failures.
Hubris is extreme pride and arrogance, and it occurs when those in power lose their connection to reality and vastly overestimate their capabilities. Its opposite – humility – inspires trust, loyalty and productive team work. Jim Collins, in Good to Great, talks about remarkable CEOs who sustain success through leading quietly, not charismatically, and calls them Level 5 leaders.
A classic example of a Level 5 leader is an individual who blends extreme personal humility with intense professional will. According to Collins’ research study, executives who possess this seemingly paradoxical combination of traits are authentic catalysts for the statistically rare event of transforming a good company into a great one.
What is it that a leader with personal humility and intense professional will does?
- They demonstrate a compelling modesty, shunning public adulation; never boastful.
- They act with quiet, calm determination; rely principally on inspired standards, not inspiring charisma, to motivate.
- They channels ambition into the company, not the self; set up successors for even more greatness in the next generation.
- They look in the mirror, not out the window, to apportion responsibility for poor results, never blaming other people, external factors, or bad luck.
- They create superb results, a clear catalyst in the transition from good to great.
- They demonstrate an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results, no matter how difficult.
- They set the standard for building an great, enduring company; they will settle for nothing less.
- They look out the window, not in the mirror, to apportion credit for the success of the company—to other people, external factors, and good luck.