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Humility is a Positive Trait

| by Susan McIntosh on Feb 20, 2017. Estimated reading time: 1 minute |

Humility is a beneficial trait in leadership. While some may talk about humiliation or embarrassment alongside humility, that is certainly not the case.  According to a recent Washington Post article by Ashley Merryman, humility is essentially an honest assessment of oneself (both the positive and the negative), within the context of the larger community. Those who are humble see where they fit within a greater context, rather than putting themselves in the center of the universe. 

More than a decade ago, business author Jim Collins called out the leaders who personified humility in his book "Good To Great." Identifying humility among the characteristics of "Level 5 Leadership," he talked of "personal humility and professional will," and described how such leadership drew organizations into success, lasting long after that particular leader had stepped aside. This article brings to light research emphasizing how the pursuit of personal humility in leadership helps to create success for a company, even after that leader has left.

The article identifies several specific areas where humility is beneficial, from the intellectual and social realm, to romantic and work relationships, and even in leadership. 

The intellectually humble have a constant desire to learn, are willing to admit they're wrong and seek out help. This allows them to grow and adjust in many various situations. 

Humility also helps in social situations - those who are humble are less likely to overreact to, or blame, others. The humble have a wide-ranging social community, and are more accepting of differences.

In romantic and work settings, those who are humble tend to behave more ethically - resulting in longer lasting relationships, and greater honesty.

Humility in leadership shows when the leader prioritizes the success of the organization over their own success. Turnover was lower, disparity in pay was smaller, and the company's overall performance was better with humble leaders. The article cites a study where the researchers showed that humility is contagious, adopted by followers of a humble leader, and influencing team behavior. Merryman notes that, "When leaders are humble and focus on growth, so do we."

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