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Humility - the massively underrated superpower

The importance of humility in Leadership.

In a recent Management Training session, we discussed the importance of an often-overlooked trait in leadership: Humility.

In the session, I asked what the team thought was meant by the term 'Servant-Leadership', and got some great answers, all different:

Leading from the back, empowering your team, showing empathy, putting your people first, and so on.

However, when discussing various specific situations, it became clear that there is a level of uncertainty in how to apply Servant Leadership in certain contexts.

At which point I chose to quote the late, great, master of management, Konosuke Matsushita of Panasonic, JVC etc:

"We are going to win and the industrial west is going to lose out; there’s not much you can do about it because the reasons for your failure are within yourselves. With you, the bosses do the thinking while the workers wield the screwdrivers. You’re convinced deep down that it is the right way to run a business".

The reasons for your failure are within yourselves.

Whilst it is an admirable concept, to be both servant and leader to your team, there is an inherent arrogance about the idea of being a leader at all.

Yes, someone needs to make the final decision, but in the traditional Western approach to leadership, the assumption is that the leader is omniscient and infallible.

Trying to encourage leaders to incorporate some aspect of stewardship to their role apparently complicates matters to the point they often get it seriously wrong.

Of course, we all know our leaders are not infallible, so why do we insist on putting them in a situation where they might actually start to believe their own infallibility?

We have seen the error in this thinking in the political world, have we not? ...several leaders not a million miles from here spring to mind.

In the east, there is no such cult of the leader. Yes, they are human and therefore flawed, like the rest of us. But they place enormous value on traits such as humility.

Such traits temper the natural inclination to feel we are 'special'.

Mr Matsushita went on to say that business today is so complex and difficult, that survival depends on the mobilisation of every ounce of intelligence within the organisation, for the benefit of the business as a whole.

That requires Humility.

When I asked the team how they might demonstrate humility in their normal day-to-day activities, there was, again, an enthusiastic and varied response.

How about we just say, the next time we are discussing something with our team: 'What do you think?'

Asking our colleagues' opinions is not a sign of weakness, indecisiveness or lack of leadership. It shows humility. It demonstrates your desire to share the experience with your team. It says, 'I value your thoughts', and therefore, 'I value you'.

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