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Don't Let Your Ego Get in the Way — How Humble Leaders Build Stronger, More Motivated Teams Being a great leader is about more than knowing more than everyone in the room, it's about knowing when to lift up your employees and grant them opportunities.

By Cyrus Claffey

Key Takeaways

  • Humble leaders inspire their team members and create a positive workplace culture where everyone feels valued and motivated to contribute their best.
  • Humble leadership isn't about appearing weak; it's about being authentic, supportive and encouraging.
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Everywhere you look, there are books, tutorials and retreats ready to tell you everything there is to know about leadership. Either you're not leading confidently enough, or you're supposed to give more tough love — it always comes down to how you come across to others.

But what if effective leadership stems more from the inside than from what you portray outwardly? More specifically, do we really need more leaders who seem to know exactly what they're doing at all times?

From what I've learned as an entrepreneur and the founder of ButterflyMX, I would argue that the world could use more leaders who source from humility rather than a top-down perspective.

Related: 9 Reasons Humility Is the Key Ingredient to Exceptional Leadership

What is humble leadership?

So, what is humble leadership? Humble leadership is hard to find in some corporate arenas, which makes it easier to start with what humble leadership is not.

Humble leadership is the opposite of:

  • Focusing on control: Micromanaging and never letting anyone else take the lead greatly stunts potential and limits teamwork.

  • Constantly pointing out problems: No workplace is lacking in problems. However, only pointing out problems instead of elevating the choices that help fix them can lead to resentment and a lack of motivation in the workplace.

  • Focusing too hard on end results: Everyone likes to focus on continuous growth, and it's not a bad goal to have. But helping your employees focus on the effective things they're doing in the present can help them avoid burnout.

Now, how can leaders take these examples of egocentric leadership and learn to be more humble in their approach?

Characteristics of humble leaders

When I feel stuck in my leadership skills, I try to remember the characteristics of an effective leader. Focusing on these points helps me navigate where I am versus where I want to be.

Promote success

Have you ever been around someone who felt threatened by others' success? It's an uncomfortable feeling that makes people afraid to share their wins.

But a humble leader isn't put off by the success of others. Instead, they actively promote their employees' successes in every way possible. As a result, teams are stronger and everyone is motivated to give more of themselves!

Related: 7 Ways Modest Leadership Increases Team Success

Give people credit

The ability to uplift others and give them visibility is a great way to show people you care and that you see the work they're putting in.

Instead of pointing out what people are doing wrong, it can be more helpful to give them credit for what they're doing right. As a result, people are more likely to take risks and give their all when they know they won't be singled out for their mistakes.

Accept your own lack of skills

A good leader sees where they are lacking and accepts feedback without letting their ego get in the way.

What's more, when you ask for help, you signal to your employees that it's okay to exhibit gaps in knowledge. As a result, they'll also be more willing to ask for the help they need. Moreover, leading by example enables others to work as a team and extend a helping hand.

Appreciate your employees

Do you tell your employees how much you appreciate their work? Do you engage in positive call-outs for a job well done?

The best way to stay humble is to remember that you need your employees. And those who work under you shouldn't have to wait until Employee Appreciation Day to hear how much you appreciate them.

Value authenticity

Humble leaders value a true sense of self.

When people approach their lives with authenticity, they bring new ideas and problem-solving skills that would otherwise be missing. Humble leaders who exhibit their own authenticity promote and encourage the same within the organization.

Related: Humility: The Missing Ingredient to Your Success

How effective is humble leadership?

Humble leadership is one of the most effective things we can embody in the workplace.

When you show people your vulnerability, you inspire them to be honest and loyal to themselves and others. You also motivate them to tackle their work with the same energy that you use to tackle your own.

What's more, when we as leaders embrace our humility, we're more likely to make decisions that have the most impact on our employees because it's not coming from ego.

Lastly, our humility gives others the courage to pursue their own sense of accountability. This not only makes individuals work better but also strengthens the organization.

Overall, humble leadership is not about being insecure or appearing weak. It's a chance to be authentic, helpful and encouraging to everyone around you. What's more, humble leaders stand out among their peers because they are able to inspire and motivate their employees without the use of fear or intimidation.

Not only will your own outlook change, but your employees and peers will feel inspired to do their part to make the workplace better.

Cyrus Claffey

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder of ButterflyMX

Cyrus Claffey is the founder of ButterflyMX, a proptech company focused on smartphone-enabled property access. Claffey has been developing and implementing real estate technologies for more than 15 years. He currently works with some of the largest names in multifamily and CRE.

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