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Humility as a Leadership Trait

| October 6, 2009

by Jim Bruce

This week’s Tuesday Reading is an entry –  “Humility as a Leadership Trait”– from John Baldoni’s Harvard Business Publishing blog.

Baldoni asserts, and I agree, that leaders who want to inspire followers need to demonstrate both their accomplishments and their character.  Key to demonstrating character is being humble.  And, humility is essential to leadership because it authenticates a person’s humanity.

The article suggests three ways a leader can demonstrate humility:

1.  Temper authority.  “…you don’t have to pull it to make it work for you.”  Delegate, both authority and responsibility.

2.  Look to promote others.  Groom talent.  Success depends upon them.

3.  Acknowledge what others do.  As Badoni suggests, channel “Bear” Bryant:  “If anything goes bad, I did it.  If anything goes semi-good, we did it.  If anything goes really good, then you did it.”

Baldoni also notes that it is possible to be too humble.  You do that by not putting forth your ideas and accomplishments.  If you don’t put these forth, you don’t give anyone a reason to believe in you, or follow you, or be influenced by you.  But, how do you balance the need to be noted with the importance of being humble.  You put forth your team’s ideas and accomplishments first and yours second, and the work of your team and you will be noticed.  Humility.

After you read Baldoni’s piece, you might take a bit more time and read the comments.  Ones that caught my eye included:

  • humility is a key to building trust

  • trust allows for real candor, everything on the table

  • humility inspires followership

  • it takes a great deal of self confidence to be humble

  • managing humility requires a delicate balancing act and constant analysis


This week, work on your humility and reflect on the changes that result.  .  .  .   jim