Management / Andrew Johnston: Humility

Andrew Johnston: Humility

In the latest in Andrew Johnston's series of articles for Business Reporter, Andrew looks at how to get the best out of your teams through strong leadership:

At Stretch we are often asked what the added ingredient is that makes a truly great leader, this generally comes from experienced, long standing bosses who are looking for “the edge”.  To help them we use the following formula to breakdown the key components of the Emotionally Intelligence Leader:

Authenticity = Trust + Credibility x Humility

If you can build trust and respect with whomever you are connecting with, the ongoing display of humility is the behavior that creates sustained and deep mutual satisfaction. The key phrase here is mutual, your role as leader must be enjoyed by both sides of the relationship and you need to be doing it because you mean it, put simply, you care.  But it’s tough to know what humility looks like, particularly when some of those people held up as great Leaders that should be role models make such a poor, and often no attempt to show it.

The “know it all”, “my door is always open”, “Let me tell you” leader is a relic of a bygone error, and to perform at the highest level of leadership mastery, we need to create followership by:

Sharing Their Mistakes

By showing their own personal growth, they role model this as an essential behavior and legiitimise it for others, even top performers. It allows them to admit to their own development areas and imperfections – making it OK for others to fallible. We also tend to connect with them as they appear more human and “just like us”.

Engaging in Dialogue Not Debate

They truly interact with alternative points of view, too often leaders get focused on “winning’ arguments and swaying opinion. When Leaders debate in this way they become more focused on validating their own views and miss out on the opportunity to learn about other points of view. By suspending our own agendas and beliefs, we ca not only enhance our own learning but also support followers’ unique perspectives.

Embracing Uncertainty

Ambiguity and uncertainty have become the norm in the Business world over the last few years, so why not embrace them rather than fighting it. We don’t need to prove that we have all the answers, by admitting that we don’t we create space for others to step u and offer better solutions. Your team will realize that the best way will be to rely on each other to resolve complex and ill-defined problems.

Being a Follower

This is an action that many Leaders struggle with, after all they worked their entire careers to earn the right to lead, so why give it away? But, the humble leader empowers others to lead, that’s where the real power is. By doing so they facilitate their team’s development and they role model the act of taking a different perspective, critical to working in increasingly diverse teams.

If I am still struggling to persuade you the merits of the humble leader, that’s fine, I am not perfect but remember those people in your life that you most value and love. I bet that they were not afraid to show you that you were important, they cared about you and they shared the most important moments with you. That’s all we are asking you to do.


AJ has spent most of his career leading high-performing teams or coaching others on how to create, retain and develop them. As leadership coach for RBS, he works closely with business leaders on the key elements of great leadership and how to maximise the impact on their teams. He is also founder and idealist at Stretch, the emotionally intelligent leadership coaching consultancy.

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