The concept of humility has received mounting attention in organizational scholarship in the recent past, particularly in the wake of unprecedented corporate scandals that are often attributed to the unbridled personality, hubris, sense of entitlement and perceived self-importance of the corporate leaders involved (Owens, Johnson & Mitchell 1517).
Although humility has traditionally been associated with low self-esteem, it is becoming a fast-growing area of interest for researchers and one of the most needed characteristics for contemporary leaders (Ou et al. 35). The present paper attempts to discuss the impact of humility on leadership.
Humility has been defined in the literature “as an interpersonal characteristic that emerges in social contexts that connote (a) a manifested willingness to view oneself accurately, (b) a displayed appreciation of others’ strengths and contributions, and (c) teachability” (Owens et al. 1518). Drawing from this definition, it is evident that a key impact of humility on leadership entails enhancing the effectiveness of leaders.
Humble leaders are not only willing to listen and learn from others but are also prepared to compliment followers on their strengths and show appreciation for their unique contribution (Owens et al. 1523). Such an orientation, in turn, enhances the leader’s ability to work well with followers, not mentioning that it propels the performance and productivity of employees, hence ensuring that the organization remains competitive.
It is demonstrated in the literature that “leaders who show the behaviors of humility help legitimize learning and personal development and foster openness, trust, and recognition, which are antecedents of learning goal orientation” (Owens et al. 1528). Such a perspective enhances employee engagement, team learning orientation, and employee job satisfaction while reducing turnover.
Available leadership literature demonstrates that humility assists leaders to build trust in team settings and facilitate members’ confidence to learn and develop in team-based contexts (Elrod 18). Additionally, humility enables leaders to earn trust from team members, irrespective of the fact that such leaders may not be in positions of power or authority.
Moving on, it is argued that “humble people, in their reflexive consciousness, are willing to seek accurate self-knowledge and are open to feedback” (Ou et al. 37). When this statement is interpreted from a leadership perspective, it implies that humility impacts leadership as it facilitates leaders to become fully aware of their strengths and abilities, accept their imperfections, but their strengths in perspective, and actively seek feedback.
Again, these are noble leadership characteristics that have the potential to ignite organizational competitiveness and enhance employee performance, in large part because they demonstrate the tactical nature of humility in the attainment of leadership and organizational success.
Lastly, extant leadership literature demonstrates that the humility construct not only allows leaders to listen to followers, but also provides a safe zone to coach others and listen in, and also to develop trust and confidence that are essential in leading others (Elrod 17).
The ability to listen is of immense importance for leaders as they attempt to understand what is going on to determine how to assist followers to become successful in their endeavors, while that of coaching requires a delicate balance of confidence and a servant attitude. In all these, it is important to note that humility is a central tenet, thus its importance in leadership.
Overall, drawing from the discussion above, it is evident that humility impacts leadership in many positive ways. It is therefore recommended that contemporary leaders should consider exercising humility as they interact with followers for the attainment of optimal organizational outcomes.
Elrod, David J. “Of Confidence and Humility.” Strategic Finance. 95.8 (2013): 17-18. Business Source Premier. Web.
Ou, Amy Y., Anne S. Tsui, Angelo J. Kinicki, David A. Waldman, Zhixing Xiao and Linda Jiwen Song. “Humble Chief Executive Officers’ Connections to Top Management Team Integration and Middle Managers’ Responses.” Administrative Science Quarterly. 59.1 (2014): 34-72. Business Source Premier. Web.
Owens, Bradley P., Michael D. Johnson and Terence R. Mitchell. “Expressed Humility in Organizations: Implications for Performance, Teams, and Leadership.” Organization Science. 24.5 (2013): 1517-1538. Web.