Quiet Leadership Research: Humility

Throughout 2021 i am running multiple cohorts through the new Quiet Leadership journey, with an accompanying global research project. The work explores Leadership through the smallest of actions, and is set up as a guided and reflective journey, based around 8 ‘conversations with strangers’. Alongside this guided journey, i am asking all delegates to share their views across five surveys, related to each of the four aspects of Quiet Leadership we explore: ‘Humility’, ‘Kindness’, ‘Fairness’, and ‘Grace’. The fifth piece explores how they carry their reflection into practice. Today i am sharing an initial analysis of the ‘Humility’ research: this is just a first look at the data, not a full analysis, which will wait until i have a larger sample size next month.

At first look, there is a strong belief that humility is a strength in leadership, but beyond that we see variation in beliefs. Overall we see a lack of confidence in the language that people use to describe humility, which is typical of a subject that we are uncertain about. Respondents indicate that whilst humility is a strength, it is a difficult one to measure in others, but that overall we look for introspection, as well as a continuous sampling of feedback from others. There was a strong sense that humility is an active pursuit, that we must actively seek out other perspectives.

Below are a sample of the initial narrative ideas that we may read into ‘Humility’.

  • There is a strong belief that humility is a strength in leadership, but a weaker expectation that it makes a leader more effective.
  • There is a wariness or lack of confidence in the language that people use to describe humility, which is typical of what is used when we are hesitant about our understanding. Answers also tended towards the central, or non-comital spaces.
  • People indicate that they find it hard to determine if a leader is humble, or not: so we believe humility is a strength, but have some difficulty in recognising it in leaders. We tend to lack confidence in our understanding.
  • Key traits we associate with humility include: thinking about others and the impact of your actions, a desire to hear what others say about you and, indeed, seeking out that information actively.
  • There was a strong association between the words ‘Curiosity’ and ‘Humility’, expressed as the active searching to understand your impact in the system.
  • A lot of descriptive phrases included ‘self’: self reflection, self analysis, and the relationship of that ‘self’ to others. There is a dynamic nature to much of the language used.
  • People talk about being self aware and self reflective in a given space, in a given context: what is my power and impact in this environment. In that sense, ‘Humility’ is viewed as a dynamic and active process.

I will continue to #WorkOutLoud on this, sharing the preliminary assessment of the other aspects of Quiet Leadership, as well as the ongoing development of the work.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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