Research Shows That Humble Leaders Are More Effective

A thoughtful, respectful approach to leadership produces more productive teams, according to research by Matt Norman, President and CEO of Norman & Associates, and Mark Marone, PhD.

Though our culture celebrates leaders who are brash, aggressive and unforgiving, these traits produce employees who are fearful, unhappy and ineffective. The study finds that teams with egotistical leaders underperform and experience higher turnover and absenteeism.

A humble leader, in contrast, is others-focused, self-aware and creates a safe environment for employees. The study defines others-focused as taking a genuine interest in other people and publicly celebrating their achievements. Self-awareness is characterized by authenticity, a willingness to listen to constructive criticism and a commitment to self-improvement. A safe environment is one where employees feel comfortable expressing honest opinions, using their creativity and taking risks. A team with a humble leader will experience improved employee performance, lower turnover, less absenteeism and better teamwork.

For those interested in becoming humble leaders, the study’s authors suggests the following steps:

  1. Set aside some time alone to think about your own strengths, weaknesses and attachments.
  2. Block off time to develop relationships and connections with other people.
  3. Think about what you value in life.
  4. Consider the psychological safety of others and what you could do to improve it.
  5. Admit your self-doubts and failures, within reason, and make others feel comfortable doing the same.
  6. Find opportunities for personal growth, and consider working with a coach.
  7. Follow humble leaders and learn from them.
  8. Ask people to hold you accountable.
  9. Identify the things about yourself that you would like to improve.
  10. Commit to humility and be intentional in your leadership.

To learn more, you can read the white paper here.