knowing doingA recent Fast Company article, 3 habits of humble yet effective leaders, addresses a key idea— that the best leaders are humble. More specifically, the article discusses the importance of asking good questions, being a good listener and being appreciative of others. The article is sort of a 10 commandments or a “motherhood and apple pie” version of leadership.   Of course, all of this is right on. A great leader should be humble, appreciative and a good listener, etc. But what intrigues me most about this article is why this seems like news. Jim Collins’ Level Five leaders are described this way and many others as well. The research is overwhelming that this is how leaders should think and act. In my experience, however, most leaders don’t operate this way.   I think the deeper question is: Why is there a profound “knowing-doing gap?” (Thanks to Jeffrey Pfeffer for the reference). I think there are two reasons:   First: In most organizations being a good leader in the sense of having humility is not actually rewarded. Boards and outsiders seem to like having showy leaders and, overall, there is an overabundance of charismatic leaders, even if the results from them are poor.   Second: Most leaders don’t actually know how to lead and still be humble. There is a paradox hidden in these two ideas. The paradox is that to be humble and a good leader, you must be confident and purpose-driven, but not arrogant. A good leader has an “internal locus of control” meaning that he/she is well grounded and personaly responsible. They also have high levels, but not excessive levels of self-trust. Great but humble leaders maintain a delicate balance between drive and humility.   We often get asked, “Can you teach someone to be humble?” The answer is yes. The approach to teaching people to be humble is itself a paradox. In order to be humble, a leader must be confident enough to know that they are imperfect humans like all of us and and are completely OK with that.   People who go through our programs at Cerebyte tell us they are transformative and help them build confidence. Most importantly, increasing self-trust is a very good thing since that is the foundation of humility.   Are you a humble leader?]]>

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