Consider this list of famous people: Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Indra Nooyi, Marillyn Hewson, Neil Armstrong, and Captain Sully Sullenberger. While it may seem like this is a random assortment, these people are united by one special characteristic: Each is known for humility. While humility as a leadership trait gets a lot of lip service, here are five reasons that being humble will make you a more memorable leader.
First, leaders who embrace humility and give credit to those along their path who have contributed to their success tend to be more trusted and well-liked by those who work for or with them. Humility is a trait that people universally value, and generally people want to be around humble people. They feel good working for someone who can openly admit to fallibility and human nature. In fact, a study done by Catalyst back in 2014 showed that “humility [is] one of the most significant indicators, after empowerment, of altruistic leadership.”
Second, the most humble leaders are generally the most successful. These kinds of people live in a world where they are constantly unhappy with the status quo, so they work day to day to make it better. Regardless of the gains they may make, they tend to credit other people and outside factors with their success, which engenders goodwill among employees and co-workers alike. If you demonstrate humility on a regular basis, there’s a good chance that top performers are going to want to come work with you and for you, which leads to increased business success.
When you demonstrate humility as a leader, you also demonstrate that you believe in balanced authority. You give credit where credit is due. You delegate accordingly and give your people the opportunity to succeed and even stand out from the crowd. In both cases, your humility shines through and makes you stand out in people’s memory. You also show that you believe in collaboration and the value of individual contributions to the whole. This has a tremendously empowering effect on employees and causes them to want to do good work.
Being humble also shows that you have integrity. If you are a humble leader, you don’t bellow from the rooftops about your successes; you let your employees and your business successes speak for themselves. You demonstrate that you are reliable, and you do what you say you will do. That kind of behavior trickles down through an organization and can fundamentally change a business.
While being a successful leader and being humble may seem to be mutually exclusive, they are not. Being humble doesn’t mean being weak or being a pushover. It means being open to and aware of the mistakes that you, as a leader and human being, can make. It means being open to others’ opinions and needs, being able to admit when you are wrong, and accepting ambiguity. If you make a mistake, be sure to use it as a teachable moment. If you are unsure of a decision you have to make, admit that you are unsure and ask others to help you gather more information. While doing these things can seem difficult, taking these steps makes you more approachable and human in the eyes of your employees. By making yourself vulnerable, you increase your role as a leader in the eyes of your employees.
Humility is not an inherent trait either. It’s something that has to be cultivated and worked on. It often takes a lot of self-awareness and self-reflection to develop. It also requires vulnerability, which can be scary. But take this as an example: Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were both known, early in their careers, as rather proud and arrogant men, according to David J. Bobb, the author of Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue. As this story in Fast Company points out, both men had to learn from their experiences and eventually became humble even in the face of tremendous successes.
By working to cultivate humility in your leadership, you can encourage even greater business success. By being a good role model in all that you do, you empower your employees to become ambassadors for your brand and your business. Being humble can truly pay dividends and ensure the long-term success of your business and your brand.
Angela “Angie” Koch is CEO of U.S. Money Reserve, one of the largest private distributors of U.S. government issued gold, silver and platinum coins. Angie oversees every aspect of operation, while setting culture and pace for the entire organization. With a proven background in business planning, strategy, mergers, acquisitions, and operations, Angie has an in-depth understanding of how to run a successful business and is credited with creating the analytic and KPI structure at U.S. Money Reserve. Believing strongly that the people make the business, Angie has positioned U.S. Money Reserve to be a trusted precious metal leader that always puts their customers and employees first.