Humility can make you a better leader. Can it also improve your health? Yes, say researchers. When it comes to leadership, a recent study published in the Academy of Management Journal finds that humble leaders are more effective and better-liked by co-workers. The study defines humility in three ways: “The ability to admit your mistakes, the ability to spotlight your subordinates’ strengths, and the ability to be teachable or accept correction.”
Co-author of the study, David Heckman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of management at the Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee stated, “You need to open up and admit what you don’t know. You need to recognize when your followers do something better than you and when they’re more talented than you – celebrate it.”
So, humility can make you a better leader. Can it also improve your health? Bradley Owens, Ph.D., an assistant professor of management at State University of New York at Buffalo, and co-author, expands the impact to having an effect even on the well-being of the leader in a more recent interview in Men’s Health Magazine shares how humility helps leaders be less stressed, and that improves health. He states, “Leaders who are constantly trying to maintain a strong front and macho personality are often psychologically exhausted, which leads to leader burn-out.”
Humility is more complex than we think. It isn’t about being passive or weak. It’s about the ability to put the needs and feelings of others above ourselves. It checks ego at the door.
This is a lesson I learned many years ago. I was newly engaged to be married, had a very active business with long hours and was extremely busy with community commitments. One night I felt a grip around my back which was very painful. The next morning it spread to my chest, making every breath difficult and the following night I just couldn’t go to bed – it was too painful to lie down. I felt like many leaders do when overwhelmed by their commitments: stressed out!
I have often turned to prayer for the cure of illness in the past, and it seemed appropriate to do so at this time also. As I did, I realized that my life, and the life of everyone has a divine purpose, so I could turn to God for direction. This made me more humble, less egotistic. The grip disappeared and I felt I learned a lesson: humility is an answer to stress.
After 20 years of marriage, four children, and increasing work responsibilities, I can say this is a lesson that has helped me on other sleepless nights, waiting for a teen to come home or worrying about finances or other things. Try it. Don’t take on all the responsibility, let prayer help. Humility can help us live less stressed, healthier lives.