Article – Model Humility


This month, we challenge you to model humility. In 2018, we introduced our Five Ys of Leadership as a better way to assess, and strive to be, the leader you would choose to follow. The fourth of our Five Ys challenges leaders to clarify and model the standards for humility in the organizations they lead.

A foundational quality, humility differentiates great leaders from competent ones. Humility is the ability to acknowledge limitations, recognize the contributions of others, and accept that learning is a continuous process. Humble leaders are confident enough to be vulnerable. They understand that leadership is not about commanding authority, but rather serving and empowering others.

How to Model Humility: Behaviors of a Humble Leader

  • Build Trust and Respect. Humble leaders are approachable and open to feedback. This openness leads to increased trust, as employees are more likely to engage with a leader who listens and respects their input. Trust, in turn, enhances teamwork and collaboration.
  • Encourage Learning and Growth. Humble leaders are willing to admit when they do not have the answers and are open to learning from others. This attitude promotes a learning culture where curiosity is encouraged, mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth, and innovation flourishes.
  • Enhance Employee Engagement and Satisfaction. Humble leaders prioritize their team’s well-being and professional development over their ego. They recognize and celebrate the achievements of their team, giving credit where it is due. Employees are more loyal and engaged when they are supported and recognized.
  • Build a Sustainable Legacy. Humble leaders invest in building strong teams and developing future leaders, ensuring that the organization continues to thrive even after their tenure. This sustainable approach to leadership creates a lasting, positive impact on the organization and its people.

Promote a Culture that Honors Humility

Creating a culture that values humility requires intentional effort and commitment. Strive to recognize and promote humble leaders who model associated behaviors. This month we challenge you to be the leader you’d choose to follow by demonstrating the following:

  1. Acknowledge Mistakes or Shortcomings. Set the example and expectation for how to handle perceived failure or deficiencies. Acknowledge mistakes, share difficult lessons from your past, and demonstrate a growth mindset. When leaders model humble vulnerability, they set the standard for the entire organization.
  2. Encourage Open Communication. Foster an environment where open and honest communication is honored. Create channels for feedback and make it safe for employees to voice their opinions and concerns without fear of retribution. Such openness requires humble leadership.
  3. Recognize and Celebrate Contributions. Regularly acknowledge and honor the contributions of team members. Prioritize we before me. Public acknowledgment of others will not only boost morale, but also will reinforce humility by framing success as a collective effort.
  4. Listen More, Speak Less: Resist the urge to provide the answers. Ask good questions before giving assured answers. Demonstrate the humility to acknowledge that you don’t have to have all the answers. Reap the benefit of new and diverse perspectives before charting a course to solve any problem.

Humility in leadership is not just a moral virtue, but also a strategic advantage. It builds trust, fosters learning, enhances engagement, and promotes long-term organizational success. Model humble behaviors and cultivate a culture that honors humility as a critical requirement for leadership advancement. CEEK a Better Way®.