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Humble Key to Effective Leadership

| March 20, 2012

by Jim Bruce

Research by Bradley Owens from the University of Buffalo’s School of Management and David Hekman from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s Luber School of Business has shown that “Leaders of all ranks view admitting mistakes, spot lighting follower strengths and modeling teachability as being at the core of humble leadership.”  “And, they view these three behaviors as being powerful predictors of their own as well as the organization’s growth.”

This research was reported in the December 8, 2011 issue of Science Daily <> as well as in the Atlantic – “Humble Leaders Are Better Liked and More Effective” <>.

Humble leaders who were experienced white males were reported as reaping large benefits from humbly admitting mistakes, praising followers, and trying to learn.  In contrast, humble leaders who were young, non-white, or female were reported as having to constantly prove their competence to followers, making their humble behaviors more expected and less valued.

Participants in the study were drawn from very different organizations and all agreed that the essence of leader humility involves modeling to show followers how to grow.  “Leaders who want to grow signal to followers that learning, growth, mistakes, uncertainty and false starts are normal and expected in the workplace, and this produces followers and entire organizations that constantly keep growing and improving.”

So, more work to do:  lead by example, admit your mistakes, and recognize the strengths of your team members.


.  .  .  .   jim