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humble

If you list the top five attributes of an effective leader does humility make the list?  Research confirms that humble leaders are more effective.  Admitting you don’t have all the answers creates opportunities for learning and builds trust, establishes credibility and provides an example of how to deal with uncertainty.

Humble leaders:

  • Check their egos at the door
  • Share their mistakes
  • Forgive failure
  • Empower and inspire others
  • Make decisions for the greater good
  • Invite feedback
  • Attract top performers and engender loyalty

Rick Warren explains that “true humility isn’t about thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  Picture Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai.  What humble leader might you emulate?

Have you ever been told, “You shouldn’t care so much what other people think”?  Caring what others think can come from wanting respect or trust, both of which are reasonable unless we let someone else decide whether we deserve them.

Don’t Let Others Define You

In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says that we don’t need to stop caring about what other people think of us, but we don’t have to be defined by them.  What would you need to define yourself as someone who respects your own judgment and trusts your own instincts?

Listen to Yourself

Listen to yourself first – and last.  Seeking other opinions can be valuable in thinking through your options and validating your instincts but you’re the one who has to live with your decisions.  Try keeping track of your success rate for three months and be the one to identify what defines you.

In a session on creating a “Secret Sauce for Successful Leaders” my client team identified these ingredients:  vision, communication, confidence, positive role modeling, reliability, trustworthiness and transparency with generous dashes of encouragement, motivation, appreciation, fun, coaching, caring and steadiness.

Potential Distractions

In our next exercise, “How to Avoid Burning Your Fingers”, the group identified the following potential distractions to implementing that Secret Sauce recipe:

  • External market factors
  • Loss of business
  • Morale / Negativity
  • Resistance
  • Communication
  • Safety or other incidents
  • Talent
  • Resource management
  • Personal distractions

Celebrate Successes

Could you choose the perfect dessert for each member of your team without asking them what they want?  Our last item on the menu for this session, “Why We Shouldn’t Skip Dessert,” explored the importance of celebrating successes in ways that motivate each individual.  Here are some of the techniques that were mentioned:

  • Listening
  • Trust
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Support
  • Involvement in decision-making
  • Meaningful work
  • Autonomy
  • Training & development
  • Career advancement
  • Money

I invite you to create your own secret sauce for leadership recipe, develop a plan to put the lid on potentially painful distractions, and serve each of your team members a dessert that will motivate them to succeed in any kind of market environment.

The news reports from the days after terrorist attacks in Paris indicated that Parisians were doing what they typically do – meeting friends in cafes, jogging and walking their dogs.  It’s common in the aftermath of a traumatic event to feel relieved that we’re safe and then to feel guilty for wanting life to return to normal.

Trauma at Work

To a lesser degree, people can also suffer from survivor guilt after their colleagues are laid off.   The confusion of feeling relieved while grieving can affect productivity, morale and trust.

What Leaders Can Do

Team leaders who acknowledge these feelings and ask for suggestions on how to handle increased workloads can help restore equilibrium.  I invite you to be aware of and accept feelings of loss and then to make a conscious decision to follow the Parisian example and carry on.

“This work changed my life.” When a client tells me that, I am grateful, humbled and energized to continue finding opportunities to help people fulfill their potential. This particular client was very good at telling people what he thought they wanted to hear, but I knew he meant what he said because he had worked hard on being authentic. He had learned how to let people know that he cared about them personally.

Deeper Connection

Sharing stories about his struggles as the new kid in school and his challenges in meeting his parents’ extraordinarily high expectations helped my client connect with his colleagues at a deeper level. As a result, they trusted him to tell them the truth and lead them through a very challenging time in their business.

Persuade, Teach and Inspire

Our storytelling tradition has been around since humans started talking around a campfire. Technology allows us to share our stories in different ways now, but we are still moved by someone who stimulates our imagination and our emotions. Your stories hold the power to persuade, teach and inspire – how will you use them?

For ideas and examples of great storytelling, check out

https://www.ted.com/talks, http://themoth.org/radio and www.storytellingsuccess.com

What makes you trust someone? Transparency, maintaining confidentiality, delivering on commitments, telling the truth even when it’s difficult – these are some of the qualities of a trustworthy person. With the continual news about public figures abusing the trust of their constituents, fans and families, building an environment of trust is a timely topic for all leaders.

Here are a few fundamentals:

  • Let go – delegate authority and trust your team to handle it responsibly
  • Be honest – give constructive feedback
  • Admit your mistakes – set the example for humility and learning
  • Show that you care – about them as a person, not just an employee
  • Be consistent – so people will know what to expect

Building trust takes time but it is an investment with a significant return. I invite you to consider one thing you might do this month to build trust with a colleague and how that could pay dividends to both of you.   Read more about Building Effective Relationships