Research by Milton Sousa of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) reveals that the more power you have as a leader, the more humility will help to be a successful one.

In his dissertation Servant Leadership to the test: new perspectives and insights, Sousa discloses humility as one of the virtues of being a servant leader. Leaders can amplify the effect of their actions if they stand back and empower followers to take more ownership. This will gain leaders more respect and get employees more engaged.

Surprisingly, this theory is most evident when the leader is in a high position of power, and not so much in the lower ranks, where traditional leadership aspects like accountability and providing direction seem to be sufficient. The higher you go on the hierarchal ladder, the more relevant humility becomes. Powerful humble leaders benefit from a more open culture where learning, honesty and listening gain prominence.

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RSM Discovery: emoties en dienend leiderschap

This means that to climb to the top of the ladder you might not always benefit from humility. But once in a position of power, being humble can help you become more effective.

Balance humility with directed action!

Ancient and classic thinkers like Lao-Tzu, Kant or Saint-Augustine, just to name a few, praised the notion of humility. This is a fundamental cornerstone for the whole servant leadership concept. But how does humility impact performance? We were able to confirm that a humble attitude works in tandem with the leader’s ability to instil directed action, in fact amplifying the leader’s effectiveness. In other words, if a leader is competent while being humble, people will feel more engaged and motivated to follow.

ArrayThe notion of leadership can also be viewed in a very different light – if the servant leadership model were to be successfully implemented within companies, then leadership is no longer based on a hierarchical structure designed to keep people in their place but rather a process of driving forward collectively, as a team.

One thing is for certain – the greater the ability of the “servant leader” to balance humility with action, the higher the chances of effective team performance and results..

About the author: Milton Sousa is currently Director of MBA Programmes at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.

ArrayBron: RSM Discovery.

Leiderschap is een belangrijk onderdeel van de Parttime Master Bedrijfskunde, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. Meer informatie over deze deeltijd opleiding treft u hier of op een van de voorlichtingsavonden.

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