Humility allows leaders to build meaningful relationships, create positive organizational cultures by leading through example, and boost innovation. Humble leadership thrives on self-awareness, self-reflection, and emotional intelligence. Humble leaders are more inclined to listen to others and learn from them. As a result, they make better decisions and find ways to improve their leadership further.

“Humility is not denying your strengths. Humility is being honest about your weaknesses.” – Rick Warren.

At a superficial glance, leadership humility may seem like a contradictory issue. Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less – they say. As a leader, however, you must think about yourself to achieve a level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence that makes you effective.

Humble leadership doesn’t require you to focus less on yourself. It is about being honest with yourself and giving yourself the chance to learn from those around you.


Humility gives you the power to learn and improve.

As a leadership coaching expert, I know first-hand that humility is the key to learning and improvement. Curiosity itself entails a degree of humility. When you’re curious about something, you admit to yourself that you don’t have all the answers and must look for them elsewhere. Curiosity also means valuing the contributions of others.

From an executive coaching perspective, humility can impact leadership effectiveness in many significant ways.

  • Team cohesiveness and success. Humble leaders don’t see themselves as the main characters of their organizations and teams. By involving others and sharing success, they improve team cohesiveness, boosting productivity and the likelihood of success.
  • Building trust. Humble leaders are more relatable, human, and inspirational. By being upfront about their vulnerabilities, they find it easier to build meaningful connections with their team members and peers.
  • Promoting growth. Good leaders lead by example. Humble leaders showcase a growth- and improvement-focused attitude that readily rubs off on those around them.
  • Better decision-making. There is a certain quality to humility that allows humble people to value input from others. Since they know they don’t have all the answers, humble leaders actively seek contributions and alternative perspectives.
  • Humble leaders accept solid input and put it to good use. As a result, cultures built around leadership humility tend to be more forward-looking and flexible.

Humble leadership is a multifaceted position that allows leaders to rally their troops more effectively, motivate their people, and fulfill their purpose at the helm of their organizations optimally.

In this article, I dissect humble leadership, isolating its components, defining its benefits, and detailing ways in which interested parties can develop leadership humility.

Understanding Leadership Humility

As a business coaching professional, I see leadership humility as the ability to realistically assess one’s importance and place in the larger picture of organizational success. Humility allows leaders to understand their abilities and the impact their leadership traits have on individual employees and their organizations.

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Humility gives you an objective view of your importance.

From the perspective of a leadership coach, the key elements of humble leadership are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Flexibility
  • Resilience
  • Transparency
  • Gratitude
  • Appreciation for feedback

Leadership humility is not about giving up clout or taking a back seat. It is about approaching leadership challenges on a realistic, solution-focused footing.

Unlike meekness, humility does not surrender or deny a leader’s strengths. Meek people are gentle, obedient, and avoid falling out of line. Humble people possess a thorough understanding of their importance and abilities. They do not, however, fear striking out toward the unknown or giving credit where credit is due for their successes.

The interests of the organization and the community it creates supersede personal interests in the eyes of a humble leader. Such leaders understand their priorities and know how to check their egos.

Benefits of Leadership Humility

As a multifaceted leadership trait, humility shapes leadership style and defines its effectiveness. Humble leaders, unlike meek or self-focused leaders, tend to be effective. Humility impacts employee engagement, motivation, and involvement. It allows leaders to make better decisions. It also boosts:

  • Team Morale. Trust is the foundation of morale. Employees who trust their leaders have a sense of direction that can be highly motivating. Trust leads to stronger relationships, improved communication, and less conflict. Less conflict reduces stress and tension. Humility-inspired leadership behaviors, like valuing feedback and showing vulnerability, are powerful molders of organizational culture and prime leadership examples.
  • Humble leaders who value feedback and alternative perspectives create psychological safety for their employees. Psychological safety allows people to contribute their ideas and viewpoints freely without fearing negative repercussions. The free flow of ideas boosts cooperation, effectiveness, and organizational performance.
  • Innovation. Leadership humility provides psychological safety to all team members. Without the specter of negative consequences, people are more willing and eager to contribute their ideas and takes to the creative process. Experimentation is the source of innovation, and an environment of psychological safety favors experimentation.


Leadership humility sparks innovation and progress.

Developing Leadership Humility

“My mantra is: humble yourself. Discover what your monsters are. Be honest with yourself.” – Terry Crews.

What I like about humility as a leadership coaching expert, is that we can intentionally develop the trait, turning it into one of our leadership strengths. Here’s how you can cultivate this essential leadership asset.

  • Self-reflection. To discover your “monsters” and shine a light on the weaknesses that may hold you back as a leader, you must be self-aware and capable of self-reflection. Honesty is the key here. We all tend to be biased when assessing our capabilities, but only those who see themselves objectively can successfully identify areas for improvement.
  • Feedback. Rushing to judgment is a tendency of the immature mind. Humble leaders can bring this tendency under control. They can dedicate their undivided attention to others, listening actively and collecting valuable feedback. Furthermore, humble leaders don’t wait for feedback to come to them. They reach out for it proactively.
  • Effective collaboration and communication require mutual understanding. Humble leaders appreciate alternative perspectives because they know and understand the circumstances that give birth to them. Empathy allows you to build deep, meaningful relationships and involve and engage your team members in ways that allow them to maximize their contributions.  
  • Leading by example. One of the best ways to practice and develop humility is to demonstrate it. Humble leaders inspire others through their words, actions, and willingness to listen to and learn from others. They set examples others can follow while turning humility into a deeply ingrained personal trait rather than a leadership attitude.

Leadership Humility in Action: Case Study

Humility is the hallmark of some of the world’s best-known and most inspirational leaders. Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, and Abraham Lincoln are all leadership figures replete with genuine leadership humility. Humility is among their most attractive leadership traits, arguably the key to their appeal and success as leaders.

Seeing himself as “God’s humble instrument,” Abraham Lincoln acted and lived his life following that mantra. His leadership is a perfect demonstration of how meekness and humility differ and why humility is a fundamental trait of sustainable leadership that stands the test of history.

Always willing to listen to everyone, including political opponents, Lincoln was as ambitious as he was humble. In his historic July 4, 1862, address to Congress, he set an ambitious vision for his presidency, bordering on audacity against the backdrop of the dire political and financial situation of the country at the time. Lincoln may have been humble, but meek he was not. He wanted to:

  • Save the country from bankruptcy
  • Unify it
  • Abolish slavery
  • Redefine the US presidency
  • Grant public land to farmers
  • Provide everyone with access to education

As history would prove, he would accomplish his vision, cementing his place in the annals as one of the most influential and impactful US Presidents.


Far from negating leadership strengths, humility boosts them. Humble leadership is effective leadership and can be extremely ambitious leadership at the same time. Leadership humility means realism, a thorough understanding of one’s importance, and the willingness to learn from others. Humble leadership is a powerful driver of organizational and team success.

Self-awareness and reflection are two indispensable prerequisites of leadership success and humility. Use self-reflection to assess your leadership humility level objectively. Find targets for improvement and take action.

Your interest in leadership humility means you probably possess the self-awareness needed to become a more humble, yet ambitious and successful leader.

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