Leadership & Productivity

Is humility the most powerful trait in a boss?

3 min read

05 December 2018

James Wilson, VP at Cornerstone OnDemand, unveils why humility is an advantageous and helpful skill in the workplace.

The fight for talented, skilled workers continues, placing power firmly in the hands of the people.

This dynamic has prevailed for some time now, and many companies recognise the need to create an environment where employees are happy, engaged and therefore productive.

Whilst organisations concentrate on creating a great place to work, transforming ways to develop employees and defining their ‘brand’ as an employer – where does that leave the managers and team leaders? How do bosses keep their best team members and drive success?

Leaders used to be plucked out for their confidence and charisma, but actually a different trait is altogether more powerful: humility!

If you look up the definition of humility – the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance – you’ll probably wonder why this is such a powerful attribute in a boss.

It may not seem obvious at first, but humility is closely tied to sincerity, and authenticity in the workplace is everything.

Being humble shows appreciation for your team. Humble people tend to be aware of their own weaknesses so have an appetite to improve or seek out others who have strengths they might not.

This approach inspires close teamwork and a high level of learning and improvement. And fundamentally, not driving by your own self-interests places the focus on the goal at hand.

Team members also have more respect for both bosses who are sincere as well as each other, since their colleagues are playing to their strengths and are more likely to succeed and contribute positively to the ultimate goals. With a high level of respect in the team you’ll reduce team turnover and absenteeism.

We’ve also noticed that more companies are screening entry-level recruits for humility. Along with all the benefits above, humility also predicts ethical behaviour, which is a key trait as we increasingly work in tandem with machines.

So, how do you spot individuals with humility and put them in leadership positions?

Whilst traditionally, confidence and presence were ways to get ‘spotted’, today artificial intelligence has changed all that. Algorithms are increasingly being used in reviewing performance and will surface the people that deliver the results.

In an age where authenticity prevails, old stereotypes of an effective leader can be binned.

There’s a phrase that captures the essence of humbleness extremely well: A pseudo leader always leaves you with a feeling of their greatness, while an authentic leader always leaves you with a feeling of your greatness.

James Wilson is VP at Cornerstone OnDemand.