Managing Employee Relationships: Honor and Humility

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?
Everyday we are surrounded by images and examples of “leadership” in our news media, entertainment industry and in our own organizations – leaders intoxicated with power, flaunting self-importance and demanding others follow them because of their position of control. The universal temptation of leadership is to use position for personal gain. (The Leadership Test, Dr. Timothy R. Clark) This perception that a “title” gives a person a “right” to get their own way, even at the expense of others is still alive and well, unfortunately. I recently heard a leader respond when challenged about a particularly selfish decision that “leadership should have its advantages.” This entitled leadership behavior is at the heart of diminished trust with the workforce we are called to lead.

Why is it important to do anyway?
Leadership does have its advantages, but fortunately not in the way the entitled leader would think. Leadership is about stewardship…an opportunity to give of yourself so that you can make a difference for those you serve. Leadership is an honor that should not be taken lightly. Honor is the foundational building block of trust in leadership. This feeling of being “honored” to serve is a reflection of the perceptions of others, not something we can create on our own. Leadership is not about how good a leader is or thinks he is; it’s about how good others think he is. And the strength of these trust perceptions comes first and foremost from the humility that the leader demonstrates in the relationship.

How can you do it?

  1. Be authentic and accessible.
    Be real. Be yourself. Be predictable. Always challenge yourself to be the same person no matter what the setting or situation. Be aware of actions you take or processes you have in place that may imply that you think you are more important (i.e. only meeting in your office, requiring a formal appointment to be made before you will meet with someone).
  2. Acknowledge other’s contributions above your own.
    While different people make different contributions to your organization, everyone is valuable. Seek those stories of individuals within your company that “lead from where they are”; where they quietly do their jobs to serve their customers…and share them widely.
  3. Tell on yourself.
    To err is human (to forgive, divine). Everyone makes mistakes…leaders too. Never miss the opportunity to own your mistakes and use yourself as an example for others to learn. This helps those you serve learn through your errors and trust that you will support their growth, even if they make mistakes along the way.

What other tips or advice would you share with a leader on how to demonstrate humility?
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5 Responses to “Managing Employee Relationships: Honor and Humility”

Kendall L. Stewart August 18th, 2013 at 9:10 pm

4. Manage your anger by choking off your sense of entitlement. Humble leaders don’t become angry often. That’s because they are almost never offended by what others do–or fail to do. They are not easily offended because they don’t feel others should defer to them. They expect no special treatment. Such an unassuming posture allows others to feel more comfortable and do their best work.

Thank you for your comment, Kendall.
I agree that working in an environment where my supervisor and colleagues are “real” and consistently avoid using the “rank” of leadership is quite special and unique in corporate America. I never once take that for granted.

I would also say “getting in the trenches” when needed goes a long way as well. If your team sees you’re not asking them to do anything you would not do yourself it can help with not only the respect factor but them relating to you.

James, thank you. Leading by example, allowing for mistakes and not asking others to do anything you aren’t willing to do yourself are qualities that I too respect in others. These leadership behaviors demonstrate that you are accessible and willing to extend a bit of vulnerability, both of which are necessary for a relationship to thrive.

[...] for everybody. The higher one rises in any group, the greater the danger. It is this poisonous sense of entitlement that seduces leaders into believing they have every right to feel angry and lash out at others when [...]

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