There’s a fair amount of research that’s done on the topic of “organizational effectiveness.” It’s a moneymaker. There’s always a market for people to tell you how to run your business better, whether or not you take that advice. It’s also a field that produces some interesting insights, which is why I followed this link (err, from someone whose taste I trusted, sorry) when I saw it on Twitter:
Although the leaders were from vastly different organizations — military, manufacturing, health care, financial services, retailing and religious — they all agreed that the essence of leader humility involves modeling to followers how to grow.
“Growing and learning often involves failure and can be embarrassing,” says Owens. “But leaders who can overcome their fears and broadcast their feelings as they work through the messy internal growth process will be viewed more favorably by their followers. They also will legitimize their followers’ own growth journeys and will have higher-performing organizations.”
The researchers found that such leaders model how to be effectively human rather than superhuman and legitimize “becoming” rather than “pretending.”
Yay! Realistic leadership is good leadership. Beyond that, it matches our best advice for modeling critical thinking. This is excellent.
Except for one little thing.
Humble leaders who were young, nonwhite or female were reported as having to constantly prove their competence to followers, making their humble behaviors both more expected and less valued. However, humble leaders who were experienced white males were reported as reaping large benefits from humbly admitting mistakes, praising followers and trying to learn.
In contrast, female leaders often feel they are expected to show more humility than their male counterparts, but then they have their competence called into question when they do show humility.
“Our results suggest that female leaders often experience a ‘double bind,’” Owens says. “They are expected to be strong leaders and humble females at the same time.”
Oh, right. That.
Do try to remember that the next time people say minorities must be doing something wrong to get different results as leaders.