humbleAn interesting recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled, “The Case for a Humble C-Suite” reports that more companies are hiring CEOs who are humble enough to apologize for mistakes and listen to others. It goes on to describe how some executives got fired because they weren’t humble.   The main reason this is a surprising article is because the characteristics of these humble executives and the positive impact they have on performance was reported decades ago by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great.   For me, the more interesting question is: What are the conditions that enable an executive to be humble? The immediate response is usually “they were born that way.” At Cerebyte, through our extensive work in this area, we have observed that humility is both learnable and that an environment can be deliberately created to make it the norm.   We’ve noticed that the best leaders are humble and the basis of being humble is self-trust. These leaders know themselves well enough and are comfortable enough with who they are, both good and bad, that they don’t need to be defensive.   We hear humble leaders described as “comfortable in their skin” and “what you see is what you get.” They have the confidence to know that whatever happens they will be ok. In turn, this confidence makes it easier to trust others because they know they will be alright.   Consciously doing two things in an organization really helps build this trust:

  • – First, systematically build a collective purpose — this is a greater social good, which is the focus of everyone in the organization
  • – Second, systematically build a path to mastery within the organization, allowing everyone to be great at their jobs
  When these two things come together, the leader can trust that everyone is working toward the same goal and is doing the work required to get there. In turn, trusting others causes them to trust the leader. Thus, a positive, reinforcing cycle occurs. But this doesn’t happen overnight. The cycle begins with self-trust, the basis of which is self-awareness. The recent fad of mindfulness is trying to get at this very concept.   We suggest a simple version to help build self-awareness with just a few easy exercises. Begin by taking five minutes a day just to contemplate what you learned. Then, share that thinking with someone else. Next, find an additional five minutes a day to consciously attempt to learn something, anything, from someone else. There you have it, a total of 10 minutes a day to become not just a humble leader, but a great leader.   Can you find 10 minutes a day to better yourself?]]>

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