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The Role of Humility in Team Performance

“Great leaders don’t tell you what to do; they show you how it’s done.” –Unknown

When you think of behaviors that leaders typically exhibit, those such as goal-setting, relationship-building, and collaboration may come to mind. While these are undeniably important, research out of the Academy of Management Journal suggests that humility may be a key attribute missing from many leaders. Humble leaders admit to their shortcomings, focus on the strengths of followers, celebrate the collective team, and are open to feedback.

Why is leader humility important? Well, humble leaders create humble followers. These humble followers, collectively, create a positive team climate with a focus on group performance and goals, greater collaboration, and potentially increased creativity and idea sharing. Ultimately, research suggests focusing on the collective may yield high performing teams. Building off of the earlier quote, this occurs through a phenomenon called social contagion. Practically-speaking, employees see their leaders as role models and, consequently, may act consistently with him/her.

As a leader, how can you demonstrate humility? Below are just a few examples that may offer some quick wins:

  • Readily admit to mistakes and highlight what you have learned from them.
  • Remain thankful by always expressing appreciation for others.
  • Share the limelight with the team, even for personal accomplishments, as the humble leader recognizes that everyone plays a part.
  • Openly invite feedback to solidify the fact that you aren’t perfect and are always looking for opportunities to improve.
  • Forgive easily, as the humble leader remembers how many times s/he has been forgiven.

To learn more about these findings, please see the source article. To learn more about how you can refine your leadership skills, check out CMA’s The Leadership Advantage (TLA) program.

Mumford, M. D., Todd, E. M., Higgs, C., & McIntosh, T. (2017). Cognitive skills and leadership performance: The nine critical skills. The Leadership Quarterly, 28, 24-39.