A 2018 investigative article in The New York Times found that only 15% of people possess humility. That means for every 10 CEOs, only one will exude humbleness, yet being humble may be the secret to succeeding in business.
This is a lesson Jason Hennessey learned in his journey from a hardscrabble childhood to becoming a serial entrepreneur and founder of Hennessey Digital. As a solopreneur and self-taught SEO guru, Hennessey has learned to let go of any need for micromanagement.
“I can’t know everything, and I don’t know everything,” says Hennessey. He said he brings in the experts and lets them do their work with authority.
Leading with humility hasn’t only allowed Hennessey to grow his digital marketing company to $10 million in annual revenue, though. It also helped him move from childhood poverty and financial insecurity to a career characterized by evolution and self-education.
If you want to lead with humility, Hennessey offers three pieces of advice from his own journey.
Humble Managers Earn Loyalty
Despite research showing that empathy from leaders is needed in modern working life, it’s in short supply in the C-suite. That’s bad news with regard to turnover. A Forbes article outlines how humble managers, known for their empathetic leanings, earn workers’ loyalty.
Humility and empathy go hand-in-hand. Both characteristics demonstrate a desire to listen to others and care about people on a human level.
If you’re faced with constant turnover and aren’t sure of the cause, a conscious effort to further develop your own humbleness might stop the revolving door. Show your employees they matter to you.
Learn From Your Employees
Some corporate leaders develop a playbook and stick to it. For them, business strategy is more a matter of repetition than imagination. That’s a huge mistake, especially in an era when changes in the business landscape can happen overnight.
Leaders who think and act as if they know everything put themselves and their companies at risk of going under. In contrast, leaders who exhibit humbleness know when to pivot hard—and make some of the hardest decisions in the process.
Hennessey tries to stay one step ahead of the competition by operating with a sponge mentality. “I absorb everything, including stuff that might be hard to hear,” he noted.
This spirit of continuous improvement has helped Hennessey avoid ego-driven dead ends. It’s also given him a second sense when it comes to selling companies he’s founded at the right time.
Cultivate a Workplace Culture of Authenticity
Everyone has a unique story. Hennessey’s includes an absent father and a chronically ill mother, along with trips to the grocery store on foot because the pair had no car. Though Hennessey might wish his upbringing had been less challenging, he embraces his past.
Humility gives him the grace to talk about his early years without a sense of anything but grateful reflection on the adversities he overcame. You also probably have a few aspects of your history that might make you uncomfortable. Humility gives you fresh eyes to review anything that happened before and use it to better yourself and those around you.
Never underestimate how valuable it is for your employees to hear you discuss the mistakes you made or the challenges that shaped you. Remember: You’re not looking for pity or an audience. You’re seeking to pass along some of the experience and wisdom you’ve picked up along the way.
Can it be tough to adopt a humble attitude when it seems like the world runs on narcissism and naked displays of power? Of course. Nevertheless, when you practice humility as part of your leadership toolkit, you and your business will go much farther. And you’ll like the person in the mirror for all the right reasons.
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