When you hear the term humble leader what thoughts immediately come to mind? For some people humble may describe a leader that is weak, timid, a pushover. People that think in these terms probably lead with a heavy fist, do as I say, a command and control mindset. Oh they may get results, but are those they lead fully investing their talents.  The answer is no, at best the followers are willfully compliant just doing enough to keep their jobs, which means success is not sustainable.

Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich tells us that humility is the precursor to success.1 Additionally, humble leaders are confident and secure while at the same time open and empathic to others. Therefore they are capable of benefitting from the skills and thoughts of others in three ways

1. Enlist the Advice of Others

Practicing humility allowed Carlos Ghosn to connect with and enlist the advice of Japan workforce to transform Nissan. Remaining open to the ideas of others was key to implement his strategy while working through tough issues. Under his leadership Nissan became profitable in one year after losing billions of dollars in previous years. 2

2. Empower Others to Action

I love the quote by Max De Pree former CEO of Herman Miller furniture company and author of Leadership is an Art…Max shares that the moment as a leader you recognize how much you need others is the moment you can abandon yourself to their strengths.His quote is a great reminder that you can empower others to actions by admitting you do not have all the answers. Under his humble leadership approach Herman Miller was recognized for its innovative people first culture that led to strong financial returns. 3

3. Stay on Track by Looking Beyond Yourself

Recently Southwest Airline’s reported its 41st consecutive year of profitability.4  Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airline Founder contributes living the value of humility to their success.  The remedy to cockiness, humility gives you and your team the okay to learn and develop.  By practicing humility Southwest employees were able to stay on track by looking beyond themselves and make the necessary changes5 to remain profitable.

Now it is your turn to practice humble leadership to achieve more success. Think of a situation you are facing, answer the following questions and implement your ideas:

  • How can I enlist the advice of others to succeed?
  • How can I empower others to action by abandoning myself to their strengths?
  • How can I look beyond myself so we can stay on track and make the necessary changes to sustain success?

  1. Napoleon Hill, The Law of Success. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2008, p. 63.
  2. “Nissan Motor CEO Carlos Ghosn is Turnaround Hero.” November 11, 2002. Accessed October 1, 2014, www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/headlines/vftt_ghosn.shtml.
  3. Max De Pree. Leadership is an Art. New York, NY: Dell Publishing, 1989.
  4. “Southwest Airlines Reports Record Fourth Quarter and Full Year Profit; 41st Consecutive Year of Profitability.” Jan 2014. Accessed October 4, 2014, http://southwest.investorroom.com/2014-01-23-Southwest-Airlines-Reports-Record-Fourth-Quarter-And-Full-Year-Profit-41st-Consecutive-Year-Of-Profitability.
  5. Chuck Lucier. “Herb Kelleher: The Thought Leader Interview.” posted June 1, 2004, retrieved October 3, 2014, from http://www.strategy-business.com/article/04212?pg=all.