Humility & Leadership – Oxymorons?
“Humility is even more pleasing in people in whom arrogance would be understandable.”
― Mokokoma Mokhonoana
Two interesting pieces of information came across my computer screen today:
- Happiness at work may hinge on how you see your boss. At first I thought, “Well, d-uh!” but then I read the article more closely. According to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, employees who think of their supervisors as partners report significantly higher levels of happiness than those who think of their managers as bosses.
- Humility, as a desirable trait, is making a comeback! Some companies are even using it as part of their criteria for hiring, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Additionally, three recent studies revealed that leaders who are considered humble “inspire close teamwork, rapid learning, and high performance in their teams.” Employees who display this trait have been found to be less likely to be absent from work, or quit. Unfortunately, they are also less likely to call attention to themselves, which means that their positive qualities might go unnoticed.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, humility is defined as follows: freedom from pride or arrogance.
It would be difficult to view an arrogant boss as a partner. We’re more likely to view him/her as someone to fear, or steer clear of. Neither encourages happiness or teamwork.
On the other hand, someone who is free from pride or arrogance is often what we term “approachable” or easy to be around. Each of us carries within us a desire to feel like our boss likes us and is “one of us;” that can only be fulfilled by someone who is humble.
Here are a few clues that your team sees you as someone to fear:
- You discover most errors; your team does not bring them to your attention
- Customer service problems are brought to you by customer complaints instead of proactively from your team
- Workplace energy is low when you’re around
- Team members avoid eye contact OR make eye contact in a belligerent or rebellious way
- You can just tell; you can’t put your finger on it but you know you make them uncomfortable.
If you’re interested in improving your likability, the best book I know is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
If you’re not interested, consider this: A study conducted by economic researchers at the University of Warwick discovered happiness resulted in a 12% increase in productivity. On the other hand, unhappy workers were 10% less productive.
Besides, not wanting to improve your likebility is pretty arrogant, don’t you think?