How Humble Leaders Rock

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Scenario: "Dude, I'm going to lead with an iron @^^%^& fist. Yay!" Our main man, Tony Dungy, won his first Superbowl as a coach of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. All week long and after the game, the media has described his "humble" persona.

  1. His players love him.
  2. He never shouts.
  3. He never points fingers.
  4. (Well, actually he does: at himself when things go wrong.)

And when bad things do happen (like during the opening kickoff at the Super Bowl), he's calm, cool, and collected -- ready for an action plan to right the wrongs. You put him in charge of any Fortune 500 company, and you'll see it soar higher than bald eagle on crack.

The Problem with Iron-Fisted Leaders

Peep this scenario:

  1. Manager Manny thinks he's a badass. He leads by intimidation.
  2. His team thinks he's an @^^-hole.
  3. Of course, for fear of being fired, they won't tell him that.

Leaders who lead by intimidation scare the living shizzle out of their team. Instead of working to 'satisfy the company,' the team starts consciously working to 'satisfy the boss -- but that's it.' And you know what happens then:

  • Stagnant results.
  • Customer complaint cover-ups.
  • Culture corruption.
  • Short-sighted focus.
  • Backstabbings.
  • Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

Instead of going above and beyond to rock the company and the world, the team starts thinking: "What can I do to ensure the boss doesn't yell at me?" Productivity = drainage. People are most productive when they choose to do something. Intimidating someone to do it will get you pedestrian results. Instead of rallying around you, your team starts undermining you when you're not looking. (That's how the world gets revolutions.)

What Humbleness Does

Leaders displaying humility like Dungy's have one thing going for them: They display the "I still suck" mentality -- even likely though: they're true badasses who already rock the world. Instead of resting on their laurels, they continue finding ways to improve how they manage their team.

  1. I can still inspire my team more effectively.
  2. I can still strengthen teamwork.
  3. I can still optimize my team's results.
  4. I can still improve my team's sales training.
  5. I can still boost team morale even higher.
  6. I can still: __________________.

No matter how successful they become, they know they can still rock their teams even further. Success to them is like a shooting star: They know they'll never fully get there, but they they'll continue chasing it with all their freakish might. Intimidating leaders think they've "arrived," and display the "I-can-do-no-wrong" mentality -- so they continue managing oblivious to the faults. Humble leaders on the other hand:

  • (1) know they're imperfect, and
  • (2) know their team knows they're imperfect.

So, they continue seeking ways to improve so they can boost their team's super-dope results.

What qualities did Jim Collins's six-year study uncover among the best leaders?

[They share] a paradoxical blend of fierce will and personal humility. They are stubborn and ruthless for results. Yet they are humble. They are ambitious for their company, and rarely allow their ego to be an obstacle for the success of their organization.

The Super Side Benefit to Humility

Activity for ya:

  1. Think back to your nicest manager, ever.
  2. Now, think of the polar opposite: the meanest.

Who got more results out from you? Most likely, ^1. It's a psychological phenomena built on reciprocity: "Because you like me, I like you -- so I want to do everything in my power to help you." When people choose to produce results, that's when you're boosting team productivity like a mofo.

Humble pie = deliciously sexy.


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Posted on February 06

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