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  • Writer's pictureDr. Stefanie Puckett

Humility a leadership asset? Since when?

Is asking leaders for more humility offensive? Why does agile leadership need a high dosage of humility?

Humility is one of those weird topics. We all know it is a chivalry, and usually we are humble enough to admit that we are not that humble to begin with. When we look at leaders, the picture doesn`t get better. It gets worse. High assertiveness, feeling confident about your self and your opinion is part of a leader`s charisma. Making a mark is part of the leadership profile we know.

However, digital transformation is turning our picture of a good leader upside down, asking for new ways of leading people – agile leadership. The scientifically based “HAVE” competency model of agile leadership ( shows humility as one core competency.

Working with the HAVE model and the respective assessment tool, we see in the data that leaders tend to have a low score regarding humility. Surprising? No. A problem? Not really – otherwise they might not be in the position they are today.

Why do we call for humility? In the leadership context we are talking about humility as acknowledging the limits of our knowledge and ideas. The speed of today`s market and technology development and the increasing complexity of projects make it impossible for a leader to be an all-round expert and have all the answers.

Guess what – we don`t need the all-knowing leader, we switch to agile leadership. And agile leadership also means inclusion and engagement, to involve others. Given the amount of available data, and the necessity to develop creative ideas to survive, we need many heads. Equal footing is what we need.

Let`s define leadership humility: Acknowledge the limits of your knowledge and ability to come up with the best and most creative ideas. At the same time, involve and empower others to actively contribute, embrace mistakes and learn from them.

For Google (yes, Google), humility is part of their sucess receipe. Lazlo Bock, former Senior Vice President, People Operations at Google talks „intellectual humility“, about taking a step back and embracing other people`s ideas, if they are better. He says: “Without humility, you are unable to learn.“ (quote taken from the New York Times).

You are not the humble type? No worries, that is your business. However, do you accept the challenge of the digital transformation? Then lead agile, with humility. Get your team ready for the future with a feedback and failure culture. Be ready to learn from others in various new fields of competence and utilize the potential of your team through engagement and empowerment.

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