Moving from “Me” to “We” … or Even Better, “You”

Have you ever worked for a manager who lived by the mantra, “It’s all about me”? What about working for the leader who is more interested in promoting himself than he is about acknowledging the talents of others? It’s likely this form of leadership did not engender the most loyalty or trust.

While most of us intuitively know the best leaders are also great followers, recent research by the Catalyst organization (published  May 12, 2014 on the Harvard Business Review Blog) reports that humility is one of four critical leadership factors which facilitate employee inclusion. In their study of 1500 workers across six countries (including the U.S.), leaders who act with humility, empower others, demonstrate acts of courage, and hold themselves and others accountable to results are more likely to have teams where people engage in higher organizational citizenship behaviors, go beyond what is expected of them, and feel more overall commitment to the organization.

Moreover, leaders who were able to effectively take the spotlight off themselves and highlight the uniqueness of the individual members of their team were able to create more feelings of belonging and team cohesion.

The authors suggest a variety of practices leaders can engage in to develop a more selfless leadership style, including:

  • openly sharing mistakes and acknowledging imperfections,
  • engaging in meaningful discussion when disagreements emerge while suspending beliefs and agendas,
  • embracing uncertainty and admitting when you don’t know something, and
  • willingly reversing the roles of leader and follower by empowering others to lead.

Each of these demonstrate a leader’s humanness and humility. The authors are quick to point out that humility does not equal weakness. It takes a strong and courageous leader to admit when she is wrong, to step back and let others lead, and acknowledge the diverse strengths and talents of team members.