Humility is being in service towards others and thinking of their needs before our own. As kids, we are taught to “treat others the way we want to be treated” and though this is considered a great way to practice humility – it combats the true meaning of putting other’s needs before your own. Humility is about reframing the intentions behind your actions and switching your mindset from “what’s in it for me” to “how can I help”.
Have you ever felt defeated or upset when someone didn’t clean up after themselves? What about when your colleague provided criticism on the work you spent hours completing? Well, it’s time to take a step back and reflect. Why do you feel attacked, discouraged, or simply under-appreciated when you have to take the lead to clean up after someone or edit the work according to the feedback provided?
The humble person is not continually concerned with self, their own ways, and wishes. They are willing to put themself in second place and submit themself to achieve what is good for others. Humility is the opposite of self-will, self-interest, and self-assertiveness. This is not a sign of weakness of character, but of strength. It requires great self-control to submit to others.
Humility is closely linked with appreciation. To be able to appreciate life, we must set our egos aside and try to see otherwise ‘aggravating’ instances as opportunities to support others. Once we can do so, we tend to appreciate life more and enjoy what is in front of us. Without humility and appreciation, we run the risk of being overtaken by endless selfish desire and aversion.
It is important to consciously choose your perception of a situation. I say this because, humility is a skill you must practice. Consciously choosing will allow you to avoid your ego to get the best of you and become defensive.
How to use humility to be a better leader?
Step 1: Get out of your own head
You are important, and your opinions are valid. As a leader, you have the ability to put your foot down at any time, and this is a fact. But leadership isn't about you, your opinions, or your wishes, it's about supporting other team members on their journey of success.
Remember, the final outcome reflects who you are as a leader. So, get out of your own head and invest your time to understand the perspective of others. Go a step beyond supervision, and do the work along with your team, and take responsibility when an error occurs. Lead with humility, and lead by demonstrating the behaviors you expect to see in others.
Step 2: Be present
What is going on around you? Once you put your own concerns aside, you can truly be there for the other person. Practice active listening, and analyzing the situation. For instance, if an employee mentions that they are stuck on a task you assigned, go beyond explaining the task again. As a leader, you need to help the other individual understand how to think, not what to think. It is easy to provide someone a solution and get the task out of the way. However, to enhance their decision-making, and leadership skills, provide the individual with support while they make the decisions. If they are still stuck, ask them how they would approach the situation and work through their logic together to collaboratively finish the task together. This practice in self-awareness is the first step in becoming an emotionally intelligent leader at any organization.
Step 3: Look at the bigger picture
Being a leader means being an actively forward thinker. Savoring the moment is important indeed, but, so is establishing an understanding of the bigger picture. There is beauty in both the positive moments in life and the challenges! Humble your ego by reflecting on the past to see how it has affected the present and how it could affect the future.
As you shift your mindset to look at the bigger picture, you will realize - we grow throughout life. This means people need space to grow, learn and push their limits. The ultimate goal is to make a long-lasting impact with the work you and your team do. However, you will only achieve this as you periodically push your team. Similar to a plant, provide your team members with support and give them the time, space, and respect to bloom on their own.
Takeaway: Change takes time and as I mentioned, we need time and space to grow. Let's focus on one act together, shall we?
- Where do you hold a leadership role? At work? or home? Pick one!
- Who do you lead? Have a team or specific individual in mind?
- Simply ask this individual "how can I help?"
It is important to actively listen here - don't jump in right away with a solution. Let the other person express themselves. Fight your ego and devote yourself to the task. You'll become a stronger leader in the process.
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Osincup , P. (2020, September 21). The Art of Humility in Leadership. Whil. https://www.whil.com/insights/article/the-art-of-humility-in-leadership.
Spencer, A. (2020, April 16). All About Others: Servant Leadership in the Modern Workplace. BizLibrary. https://www.bizlibrary.com/blog/leadership/servant-leadership/.