rob duffy life coach ireland

People Love To Work For Humble Leaders

I have worked with hundreds of leaders in a variety of sectors in the past few years and a theme that comes up time and time again is that when there is a problem in how they perform in one area of their lives, it shows up in a lot of other areas of their lives too.

This is important in leadership especially because leaders are the philosophical powerhouse and replicator of an organisation. What you do gets passed onto the next generation. If you care for your organisation, you need to be self-aware!

If your goal is to empower people and leave a legacy behind as a good leader, there are a few key ways to become better able to achieve that goal.

Practice and understand why humility is necessary

One leader I worked with recalled an instance where they had some problems with certain employees they worked with. I asked for an example of how the problems showed up. They talked about how at meetings ‘they just don’t do what I tell them to do properly’. Sensing there was more to the story, I fished a little deeper to hear how they were doing the ‘telling’ in the work environment.

It came to pass that I discovered that this leader had grown accustomed to ‘higher volume speaking’ when they were in the work environment. Well, not just the work environment, it turned out that speaking loudly was a tendency they had embraced as the norm in interactions with many people in their lives.

As a leader, being challenged should be invited. Many leaders have the tendency to become defensive when they are challenged with a belief that they have to be ‘right’ or have a show of strength. 

Underlying this is usually a self-confidence or self-esteem issue where they have an embedded belief that if they are seen to be ‘undermined’ by others at meetings or in a boardroom that they will lose the control of the team or the organisation.

Some leaders feel the need to be all-knowing and a dose of humility can enable a leader to step back and say, ‘I don’t know the answer to this question’, and perhaps ask their team if they have any ideas.

The attempt to be a ‘know it all leader can damage relations and cause leaders to lose rapport with their teams if they have a tendency to try to carry too much of the burden on their shoulders.

Awareness is a key factor in embracing humility

To increase and practice humility, one has to become aware of where this humility should be applied and that can be where many leaders fall down.

Some leaders create an atmosphere which protects themselves from ever becoming aware of where they are being an ineffective leader either through force or by normalising their harmful tendencies in a way which creates a ‘chilling effect’ amongst staff and other team members.

This can cost organisations millions in the resulting flight of valuable staff and absenteeism due to working in such environments being a hellish experience for the people who are working under such conditions.

Speaking up against a dynamic where a leader has assumed so much power can cause so much stress and anxiety for fellow team members and employees that it often goes unspoken.

This can create an environment where a leader has plateaued and cannot grow and a workforce which is ambivalent about playing their A-game for the company out of fear of repercussions.

This is usually where a strong organisation’s HR department leans in to provide coaching interventions but many organisations don’t even have such an option.

In many ways, this is changing but the archetype of such a leader is still one which any new recruit to a company is hyper-vigilant and wary of, so as to avoid their career trajectory being stopped by appearing ‘insubordinate’ to their superior.

How can humility move us towards better outcomes?

  1. It takes us out of our ego state and considers what is important for the organisation rather than attempting to take the glory, protect our own interests or sacred calves or save face when we make mistakes.
  2. When we embrace humility we are open to learning about something that we might not have known before. Perhaps it will come from someone in a much more junior position too. Without humility, we might miss out on opportunities to learn and grow in areas where we are not strong.
  3. Humility allows us to act without prejudice. Many times we can have some internalised prejudice which leaves us judging people and opinions negatively. Everyone has a different model of the world and sometimes this diversity of opinion can lead us to the creation new opportunities that a prejudiced and judgmental position could take us away from uncovering in our organisations and businesses.
  4. Embracing humility encourages others to take a chance because our colleagues and employees feel like they are able to speak on our level as leaders. When we create a form of stratification, our team, our employees can close down and feel overawed. Humility offers automatic forgiveness to others and ourselves for our own failings and attempts.
  5. Humility leads us away from the paradigm of fear in how we manage situations and creates a sense of possibility rather than an atmosphere of tension. This creates workplace and organisational harmony.
  6. Leaders who embrace humility are better equipped to utilise the full strengths of their whole organisational capability, have better communication and rapport with their teams and get better results with increased workplace satisfaction.


I have created a FREE challenge which goes some way to remedy this issue in the form of a Free 5 Day Challenge to help you catapult your journey towards mapping a better vision for what mastery in your emotional, professional and personal life might look like and I encourage you to check it out and start changing your story today.