Leadership and Humility

Rob2*This is a guest post authored by Rob Field, Learning and Development Director at Advanced People Strategies.


A pretty vast topic. The debates around effective leadership always evoke some pretty heated debate and numerous perspectives. We all have our stories of the successful and inspirational leaders we have worked for and with, the qualities they possess and how they have engaged those around them.

In leadership it can be easy to become caught up in status, power and control, however, for leaders, focusing on those around them and within their teams is crucial to success. Cheryl Williamson wrote in Forbes ‘You cannot be an effective leader if you feel you are better than your subordinates’.  Teams with these types of leaders tend to have higher turnover and experience lower productivity.

So for me, the question is – How engaged are your employees and teams? Would your business benefit from higher engagement?

With organisations constantly changing, the support for leaders can often be about developing the skills to remain agile, deal with change and remain effective.

Research is indicating that humble leaders are more effective. They give credit to the team, share success and are more coachable. A Catalyst survey in 2014 showed that humility is one of four critical leadership factors for creating an environment where employees feel included. It found that when employees observed altruistic or selfless behaviour in their managers — a style characterized by 1) acts of humility, such as learning from criticism and admitting mistakes; 2) empowering followers to learn and develop; 3) acts of courage, such as taking personal risks for the greater good; and 4) holding employees responsible for results — they were more likely to report feeling included. This was true for both women and men.

There is also a connection, and evidence, demonstrating that employees who perceive altruistic behaviour from their managers are more innovative, suggesting new products or ways of working. They were also more likely to be more engaged.

So whats the issue? Finding the humble! In an age of self-promotion, humble people will be hidden among the many. They aren’t charming their way to the front, regaling tales of their achievements to anyone who will listen. Humble leaders may get overlooked. They are more likely giving credit to the team for a job well done, sharing the success and being a good organisational citizen.

With all the upside, they are worth finding and investing in. Whether internal promotion or external hiring, it is possible to measure altruism and humility.


You should be. It could add real value.