Do humble leaders play a part in employee engagement?

Leaders must realise that accepting their mistakes does not make them appear weak in any way.


Studies have shown that most employees leave jobs because they are not happy with their bosses or with the leadership of the company. Employees yearn to work under successful leaders, so that they can learn from them and get inspired. While we all know that great leaders possess a magnetic personality, are charming, knowledgeable, charismatic and confident, there is one important trait that is often overlooked—humility.

The success of leaders is measured by how well or to what extent they are able to bring out the best in those under them. But then, most leaders forget to do this because they end up using their employees simply to achieve specific goals or targets. They start controlling their employees, overlooking the fact that they also need space to breathe, innovate, create and express themselves.

It is all up to the leaders to inspire and motivate their employees to come to work and give their best every day. It is not enough to appreciate the employees for their achievements, however small. Leaders should also practise humility. They should have the courage to admit their mistakes and also learn from their juniors. Above all, they should give credit wherever it is due.

In a book titled Alive at Work, the author talks of servant leaders. They are leaders who realise that their job is to serve employees in their journey of exploring and growing in the company. These leaders are aware that they are required to play a significant part in providing support to those working under them, to nurture them, and help them grow and progress professionally and personally.

Popular leaders are the ones who humbly accept that they exist because of the support received from their employees/juniors. They openly admit that they need the expertise of their employees or their juniors. They ask their employees to provide ideas and make it clear that they are also learning from their juniors. By doing so, they develop a learning culture within the organisation.

Learning is a two-way process—a healthy give and take process. When leaders openly admit that they are continuously learning from their employees, the workforce also respects the fact that the leaders recognise their knowledge and skills and are willing to accept what they have to offer. They realise that leaders also have their strengths and weaknesses; that just like they admire their leaders for their abilities, their leaders also appreciate their skills and expertise. If they can simply fill the gaps in terms of the skills/knowledge, the team can be a very successful and productive whole.

What do humble leaders do?

• They ask their employees what kind of help they require to perform their jobs better. Instead of instructing them on what to do, they actually offer help.

• They let their employees know that they are the experts; that they can perform the actual work better than them.

• They invite ideas and suggestions from their employees and encourage them to innovate.

• They do not have any qualms in admitting that their juniors may be smarter than them in many ways.

• They lend a patient hearing to their employees. They possess effective listening skills.

• They are able to inspire team members to work in unity, collaborate harmoniously and cooperate to achieve a unified goal.

• They work for the betterment of the organisation and not for their own vested interests or personal progress.

• They allow their team members to voice their opinions and speak up, irrespective of their level in the organisation.

• They are open to and accept constructive feedback from all quarters. They will not react negatively to criticism.

It is essential for leaders to realise that being humble and admitting mistakes does not make them appear weak in any way. In fact, it requires great strength and courage to reveal weaknesses, especially when the concerned person is in a very authoritative position. It only shows how responsible the leaders are and how seriously they take accountability. Leaders who are humble and accountable, have followers who are loyal and full of awe. Such followers make the best employees—motivated, inspired, productive, full engaged and raring to go.

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