I read a Fortune magazine article and it was talking about the importance of humility in CEOs. My immediate reaction was that seemed so obvious, and I was also struck that ALL leaders need to demonstrate some humility.
It did not take much reflection to understand why the article was necessary. There are countless stories of CEOs with big egos and the damage that can cause, ranging from sheer illegal activity to losing key employees who do not feel valued and at a minimum they have poor results.
All too often leaders, who probably have significant experience to bring to the table, think that they have all the answers. Perhaps it is a pure ego thing, perhaps it is the result of significant previous success or perhaps they have surrounded themselves with “yes people”.
“Our ego hinders our ability to influence more than anything else under our control.” Michael McKinney
It is not just company executives who suffer this way. How many times has the expert consultant brought in to a company for their experience and arrived knowing what the answer is? Despite knowing somewhere down deep that every situation is different! Their previous successes feed their ego and it gets away from them.
How many times have we seen companies lose their way because the CEO took them down the wrong path, or refused to adapt to changing conditions, or worse yet, ignored input from others? They were leaders who believed that they knew best, and nobody would convince them otherwise.
Experience is a hard earned asset, deserves respect and we can all benefit from the input of people with experience. However no person is an island and the experience of the many is typically more valuable than the experience of one.
It is a poor leader who will think they have all the answers! They will never attract or retain great talent, and they will not have the respect of their people.
A good leader will bring their experience to the table, but will take into account the input from those around them.
A great leader will find people who have even more experience and wisdom than they themselves have. They will take that collective input, weigh up the data, and make decisions. They will not come to the table with their mind made up, even though they might have strong opinions.
When we decide that we have all the answers we stop learning, and possibly that is the greatest mistake of all. When we stop learning we can no longer be a leader.
“Humility is the only true wisdom by which we prepare our minds for all the possible changes of life.” George Arliss
Kevin Dee is Chairman and founder of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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