Leading with Humility

As I continue to lift the cover on my new book “I See You,” I will focus this week on a little lauded characteristic of leadership which is humility. Quoting from the chapter on leadership credibility – “Acting out of humility means that there is more “we” than “me” in your view of the world.” Leading with humility is I believe a key to seeing teams reach their potential. Watching the football final over the weekend reminded me of this.

Seeing the final of Euro 2020, delayed as it was from last year, I was struck by the humility of the England football coach Gareth Southgate. There are not many better pictures than team sports like football, of what a team can achieve when things are going well. This England team is young, and we hope because of their capability and talent that they will go on to achieve greater things in the future despite losing this time. Credit though must go to their coach who has helped create a culture inside the team of belief in themselves and their team mates. There are some strong personalities in the team, but you can see that they are playing together and are for each other, and that is down to the culture the leader has cultivated. Humility, I believe, plays a huge part in the success of teams.

Together Everyone Achieves More

You may have come across the acronym Together Everyone Achieves More, (TEAM). This is true but it doesn’t happen by accident. It happens when the leader understands that their function is to serve the team for each person’s highest good and has a vision of the future with a plan of how to get there. I came across this quote from the Academy of Management Journal on humility:

Humble leaders admit to their shortcomings, focus on the strengths of followers, celebrate the collective team, and are open to feedback.”

When the leader acts with humility they model something to those that they lead. If the humility is genuine then it is an attractive quality that encourages similar behaviour in the teams that they lead. Research indicates that leaders who have this quality build more effective teams.

What is it about humility that makes that so?

Humility & Team Effectiveness

We looked at this very theme earlier in the year. The characteristics that humility brings out is worth repeating with an extra thought or two:

When a leader acts with humility, then the following will be true:

  • They will take responsibility when things go wrong. They will admit mistakes when they are made – looking to what can be learnt instead of who is to blame.
  • They celebrate the individual contributions of team members giving them credit
  • They buy in to collective responsibility the “We all win” and “we all fail” attitude.
  • They understand that they don’t know everything, and they will look to others to complement them and their skills.
  • They do understand the strengths and skills they bring and look to build on them whilst integrating them with the strengths of others in the team.
  • They are open to new ideas, happy to hear what others have to say, and invite collaboration.
  • They welcome feedback and build a learning culture into the team as they look to find what can be learnt from every situation whether its a win or a failure.
  • They create environments that enable the team to win – collectively going after the same goals in a way that involves everyone and acknowledges everyone’s contribution.

Humility is a mindset, a way of looking at yourself and others that recognises the contribution you make and makes room for all to contribute. It celebrates the wins of individuals and encourages everyone towards greatness. This makes for a team environment where team members are rewarded for the way they celebrate each other and encourage one another to attempt things they thought were beyond them.

How can leaders continue to grow in humility? Think about the experiences you have had with different leaders what was different about the teams led by leaders with genuine humility?

Humility I have found grows with wisdom as you realise that to achieve great things requires us to lean on the strengths of others.

“People with humility don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less.” John Maxwell

Stay safe.

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Mark Billage

Mark Billage

Mark’s passion is to help realise individuals’ potential, be they leaders or team members, through empowering organisational culture. He has spent 7 years leading an organisation based in the non profit sector. In that time, he focused on creating a culture that enabled and empowered individuals, with the aim of seeing a high performing team better able to achieve the organisation’s mission.

Our Vision

To train and equip leaders to transform culture, build successful teams and organisations where everyone is seen, heard and valued for their unique contribution.

Scroll to Top