3 Key Traits of a Humble Leader


Kevin GardnerBusiness Consultant for InnovateBTS

Monday, January 21, 2019

Humble leaders can be an organization’s secret weapon as they inspire and motivate employees and help to build a positive company culture. But what key traits should you look for and what questions do you need to ask to uncover them?

Article 4 Minutes
3 Key Traits of a Humble Leader

Interviews provide a key component in spotting leaders. Knowing what to look for in an interview – whether it’s a job interview or employee exit interview – gives you better information to improve your organization. You’ll be able to hire and retain better employees by asking the right questions. You can then spot the traits of a humble leader through responses to your questions and the individuals’ questions to you. Some of the key traits to look out for include:

1. Prioritizing the development of others

A humble leader realizes success requires others, too. Since it’s a joint effort, those with leadership skills recognize that developing others helps everyone. They help others in the organization spot their problem areas and then help individuals to work on them.

They start projects with a strong ethos and carry it through to the end. They help others learn to do the same within established parameters that don’t impede the workload or productivity. The humble leader helps others clarify personal goals and align these with the organization’s goals and responsibilities.

When assigning tasks as part of their responsibilities, they find projects that benefit the organization and the individual. These projects provide some challenge and help the individual develop themselves. When given a large assignment, they may request the assistance of others, sharing both the credit and the work.

2. Asking questions and listening to the response

Even when they aren’t in a leadership position, these employees talk to co-workers and ask about their goals and dreams. They set aside a specific time each week or month to speak with others.

These leaders then use active listening skills to learn from their co-workers, focusing on their words and meaning without judging, interrupting or commenting. They then re-word the other person’s thought to exhibit accurate understanding and clarify points.

This investment in the development of others even when it is not a part of their current responsibilities shows leadership and a strong initiative.

3. Showing gratitude and giving thanks

Since humble leaders know they need others to accomplish the organizations’ goals and meet milestones, they show gratitude and thank people openly and honestly. They admit to needing others on the team and show appreciation for it.

A true leader spots each person’s innate or developed talents and honors them. They praise others without hesitation and work to ensure that everyone has their chance to shine. This thankful nature then rubs off on others and helps to build a positive company culture.

Questions to ask to uncover these aspects

Whether interviewing a new hiring or offboarding an employee, you can ask specific questions to help uncover whether an individual possesses these traits.

While it may only seem important in a recruitment interview, you also need to identify when you lose good people and why. No one person can change your company’s culture, so you can lose good people when the culture lacks a positive, person-centered, developmental nature.

The good news is that you can alter your culture for the better and retain talented, humble leaders by effecting positive change.

In order to find out who those people are, and whether you’re missing them from your organization, here are 10 key questions to ask:

  1. We value the quality of supervision at our organization. Describe your relationship with your last manager.
  2. What could your last manager have done to improve his or her management skills and styles?
  3. Describe your views of leadership and management.
  4. What did you like most about your last position?
  5. What did you dislike most about your last position?
  6. What would you have changed about your last position, if you could?
  7. Do you feel that your last position provided the appropriate support and resources to fulfill the job responsibilities and if not, what was missing?
  8. Describe your best and worst experiences regarding employee and organizational motivation and morale.
  9. Did your last position provide clear goals and job expectations?
  10. In your last position, did you receive adequate day-to-day performance feedback and appropriate feedback on the performance development planning process?

Knowing what to ask and the traits to look for within the responses helps you identify humble leaders. Look for individuals who make the development of others a priority, who ask questions and actively listen to responses and show gratitude and give thanks.

Kevin Gardner

Kevin Gardner graduated with a BS in Computer Science and an MBA from UCLA. He works as a business consultant for InnovateBTS where he helps companies integrate technology to improve performance. He shares his knowledge and expertise not only with his clients but with his fellow bloggers and readers. 


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