Following on from last week’s post “Humble – how?” I came across this Fast Company article by Harvey Deutschendorf, author of “The Other Kind of Smart”, in which he details “7 reasons humility is a highly desired leadership trait.”

If someone were to tell you that they’re trying to be humble, I bet you’d be secretly rolling your eyes. After all, isn’t humility something you either have or don’t? It’s not like it’s a tactic you can roll out when it seems strategic to do so.

Deutschendorf’s article helps clarify the kind of behaviors that underlie humility and I think these are things we can all practice.

Essentially, humble leaders see mentoring their staff as more important than claiming any authority over them. They promote others and collaborate readily. They are trustworthy, supportive and able to admit their own failings.

Simple enough, though not easy… especially for some.

I was thinking about the kinds of leaders I’ve admired in my career and how many of them exemplified these qualities. There was never a sense that I was competition for them. Rather I felt their regard for me – they appreciated my presence and valued my working with them. They never had to actually say it because it was obvious in the way they behaved.

I remember the first time long ago when my boss at the time asked my opinion on a matter our team was working on. She was genuinely interested in my opinion. I did not feel like it was a test and when I’d expressed my opinion, she engaged with me, clearly wanting to understand more. It made a big impression on me and I’ve always admired her. She was consistently interested in her teams’ contributions.

It’s hard to fake that. If you’re genuinely interested in your employees, humility will probably come naturally.

Oh, and one more thing, Deutschendorf’s final point is that humble leaders are the “first to take responsibility and last to take credit” which is true, but I think it’s important to point out again that for most women (and other marginalized groups) in business, this is often not a choice but an expectation.

So, yes, let’s have more humble leaders – voluntary humble leaders!