Feb 16, 2016 | Leadership

This month, we saw the Broncos defeat the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.  Ted Cruz and Hilary Clinton were on top in Iowa, then got trounced in New Hampshire by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders just a week later.  These wins and losses remind us that when we put ourselves out there – when we dare to go for our dreams – we’re not always going to come out on top.  Sometimes we’re going to lose, and losing hurts. 

But resilient leaders know that losing can be useful.  It can remind us to keep our egos in check, and not, as Ann Landers wrote, “accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”

Today’s leaders face increasingly complex problems.  No one person can have all of the answers.  That’s why leaders of the 21st century must have the humility to collaborate.  To step back and create space for others to contribute, and to learn from the contributions of others.

Harvard Business Review contributors John Dame and Jeffrey Gedmin called this “intellectual humility.”

Here are three principles of humility every developing leader should be taught:

1. Know what you don’t know
. The higher you climb up the proverbial corporate ladder, the greater the temptation it is to believe that you are the smartest person in the room.  But deep down, you know that you don’t have all of the answers.  You may not even have all of the questions.  Know when to defer and delegate.



2. Resist falling for your own publicity. Part of the leadership role is to maintain a positive outlook.  Your confidence boosts that of your team and your customers.  While it’s important to have a positive outlook, it’s just as important to correctly assess reality.  Keep your spirits high, but your judgment at an even keel.



3. Never underestimate the competition. No matter how smart you are, how many hours you are willing to put in, or how creative your team is, do not allow a residue of hubris to set into your culture. There is always competition for your customer’s attention.


The first task of any leader is to assess reality correctly.  You can’t do that without having the humility to know your own limits and be willing to step back and learn from the contributions of others.

Question: What specific actions are you taking to remain humble as a leader?


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