Friday, 15 May 2015

The most overlooked attribute in leaders

What do you think is the most overlooked attribute in leaders?

As I regularly read blogs and articles about the subject, I hear that leaders must be great, they must be true to themselves, leaders must be credible, leaders must be expert communicators ...and the list goes on.

But one thing that I hardly ever encounter in literature and, even less so, I experience in real life with people who are in leadership positions is the following trait: HUMILITY. 

Why would humility be a trait of a leader and why would a leader expose him/ herself to the world as humble?

I believe that all greatness, all ability, all power is reduced to little more than a facade unless the leader is able to be humble and act humbly in the face of his/ her people. Being humble does not mean being weak or self-doubtful. Quite the opposite, by being and acting humble a leader can show strengths of character and self-confidence.  I really refer to the leader's ability to recognise mistake and apologise on the one hand, but also to extend a hand or indeed step aside in order to let somebody else go first.

This can happen in a variety of contexts but think of this, for example: How many leaders given the opportunity would renounce to centre stage in order to give somebody else the chance to shine? Or how many leaders would actually be prepared to say publicly that some successful initiative was rather somebody's else idea in their team ? 

Giving credit to others, thanking others, admitting to be wrong or even apologising for a mistake are simple acts of everyday life that most of us do as a matter of fact but somehow appear to escape the majority of people in powerful positions. I am not using the word 'leaders' on purpose here, as I believe that being in a powerful position does not automatically make you a leader.

The problem is that the more successful and powerful one is, the more one believes that in order to retain the position, they have to be seen as having all the answers, all the bright ideas, all the time.  I truly believe that in a highly complex world this is no longer possible nor desirable. By practicing humility openly we invite other people to trust us and engage with us, something that can only spell success for a leader.  

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