5 Little Things Make a BIG Difference as a Leader: Part 3: A Little Dose of Humility

This is the 3rd of a 5 part series about some of the little things you can start or stop doing that can make a big difference on how you are perceived as a leader.

Maybe you’ve seen the beer commercial where the guy just can’t seem to say the words “I love you” to his girlfriend:

OK, now imagine that guy is a leader, and he’s trying to say these words:

“I was wroooo………. (wrong)”

“I don’t nnnnnnnn…… (know)

“I need helllllllllll…. (help)”

“I’m sa sa sa sa…….. (sorry)”

Pretty silly, right? However, I’ll tell you, I see this all the time. The more senior the leader, the worse it gets. And just like the beer commerical, I see it more in men than woman.

As leaders, we often feel the need to project unwavering confidence and optimism. Never let ‘em see you sweat, right?

There’s certainly nothing wrong with that to a degree. No one wants to follow a wimpy, pessimistic, or bumbling leader. Especially in tough times, we need our leaders to show us the way and inspire us to feel like we’re going to make it against tough odds.

However, just like any leadership skill that’s overdone, too much confidence has it’s dark side. It looks and sounds like:

– Not willing to admit you’re wrong
– Not willing to ask for help
– Not being willing to apologize
– Being a know-it-all

When people see behavior like this from leaders, they don’t get inspired. They think:
Arrogant…… clueless…… self-centered………jerk.

Your lose the respect and trust of your employees, irritate your peers, lose credibility with your manager, and possibly damage your organization by stubbornly refusing to change course.

A little dose of humility goes along way. I’m not talking about the big, dramatic public Tiger Woods apology. You don’t need to hire a public relations firm to stage it for you. It’s way easier than that. All it takes is a authentic, genuine, display of vulnerability.

Like this, from blogger Bret Simmons.

We’ve all been guilty of pulling one of these at some point in our careers.

I can relate. Something similar happened to me last week. I said something behind someone’s back and it got back to them. It was unprofessional and a stupid thing to do, especially given the role that I’m in. I called and apologized.

For homework, try practicing these and other simple phrases until you can say them without stuttering:

“You know what? I was wrong, I really was.”

“I shouldn’t have done that to you, and I apologize. I’m sorry, I really am.”

“You know what, I really don’t know. I’ll find out and get back to you with an answer”.

“I could really use some help on this. I’m way behind and have hit a wall”.