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We need more humble leaders. Here’s how to get them

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03.06.2019

What makes the ideal leader?

Hollywood tells us we want a superhero in a business suit, an individual of charisma and action.

But thoughtful research tells us the truth is more nuanced. The best leaders, according to Good to Great author Jim Collins, display a combination of humility and fierce resolve. They are modest, self-effacing, understated, and fanatically driven by results. And more recent research gives us an even better understanding of humility. It is the integration of self-awareness, teachability, and an appreciation of the capabilities of others. These are traits that allow for inclusive teams and continuous learning that are foundational for creating innovative cultures.

This is going to be more important in the coming years, as it’s a top requirement for the emerging workforce. In our research on organizational culture, we found that millennials listed humility as one of the top three most important traits in a leader, along with strategy and ethics. Globally, 48% say they look for humility in their leadership, while in the U.S., more than half (54%) say this.

Yet even with all this information about the nature of humble leaders, we still find it challenging to nurture and celebrate them. We fall back on our “romance with leadership” says Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. This perpetuates the concept of the celebrity CEO, which in turn, influences the succession planning process.

The quest for finding humility in a leader is both an internal and external issue. Companies often fail to appreciate the trait in their internal pipeline, and at the same time, aren’t looking for it when recruiting from the outside. To support the emergence of humble........

© Fast Company