Humble Leadership and Trust


This week I met with a top executive coach who, in an earlier phase of life, was a famous sporting leader. In that phase of life, one example of their leadership created a famous day that will live on for many years. That moment was created by an example of leadership in the sporting arena that was silent, resolute, calm and quietly strong.

When I asked them last week about core attributes of successful leaders, their first word was “humility“.

As you can see, I am not disclosing the individual or their example of sporting leadership. After all, they are humble!

So, let’s look at humility in leadership and then how that links in to trust.

Chip Conley is one of my business heroes, I highly recommend reading his work “Peak” that takes Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into business and leadership.

In this short interview he talks about the power of being a “Vulnerable Visionary“.. and that the key is to be vulnerable with confidence if others are to follow that leader.

In the “Unthinkable” series of articles posted on Linked In, I talk about my theme of us living in “unthinkable” times where it is no longer desirable or even remotely possible for us to maintain the model of the leader / CEO as “all-seeing, all-knowing” expert.

The leaders we need now need HUMILITY and VULNERABILITY and at the same time absolute CONFIDENCE that the business or organisation will find the answers.

Together this means that the leader must have TRUST in their vision and TRUST in their people.

The role of Leaders now is to be “Keeper of the Vision” (my post on this here), and to be supportive and confident in the team to pose the right puzzles and ask the right questions needed to move towards and achieve that vision, then to solve the puzzles and answer the questions.

Satya Nadella of Microsoft has transformed that organisation, and perhaps the simplest example of what he has brought is shown in this article on “the best leadership advice in seven words”  and the seven words he used were :

Make it happen. You have full authority.

I often say the six most dangerous words in business, that keep us stuck in our paradigms and so at risk of not seeing change and opportunity are :

“We’ve always done it this way”

I also am heard to say that seven powerful words for a leader are, similar to Satya Nadella’s phrase :

“I don’t know, what do you think ?”

Again, the themes around these are humility, vulnerability and confidence, and, over all of this, trust.




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