SEPTEMBER 10, 2014

The Flight of the Humble Bee

Bee on Flower Apis mellifera

AGrowby Dr. Arron Grow

Not long ago I had a conversation with an independent writer on the topic of humility in leadership.  There are leaders who put themselves out there; leaders that everybody knows as THE leader; out front highly visible.  There are also leaders who work more in the background. They insure the work gets done, but they do not feel a need to take the spotlight for it.  In fact, many times, they’d prefer others take the spotlight.  The common bee might be considered in this same way. Without them, there would be no fruit to eat, no flowers blossoming, no pollination of any kind. They do their work in relative anonymity and yet they get so much done.   Considering things in terms of work accomplished, which leader is likely to get more done, one who works independently and needs to be center stage or one who works behind the scenes to utilize and leverage the talents of those they work with? The answer should be obvious.

Leaders who approach their work with humility tend to display the following attributes:

  1. Ready to ask what other think
  2. Ready to listen to and consider the ideas others
  3. Ready to give credit to others
  4. Ready to accept that others may be able to do a task just as well, perhaps even better than oneself – willingness to trust and delegate
  5. Ready to follow whatever path is best to achieve team and organizational goals

Put yourself in the place of a subordinate. Ask yourself this question. Who would you rather work for, a person who displays the attributes listed above, or someone who doesn’t?   For most people, the answer is the former. Do we need to go into why? Probably not, but let’s do it anyway.

Leaders who ask what others think, and really want to know, have employees who appreciate the feeling of being heard. Leaders who listen, truly listen, tend to have team members who care enough to share. Leaders who share the credit for work well done, find team members who know their efforts will be recognized. Leaders who delegate in a way that truly hands over work to others, without micromanaging, enjoy the benefits of team members whose skills grow from the added responsibility. Leaders who are willing to consider all possible avenues for a solution – regardless of the source of that solution, will find team members who are very willing to provide ideas that can help the team and the organization operate more efficiently and effectively.

So what’s it going to be, fellow leaders, “It’s best if I take care of everything myself in my own way” type of leadership, or “I’ll be humble enough to share the work and in the process share the wealth” type of leadership. Give the latter a try.

As you do this, share your experiences with others. While you can’t respond directly to this blog, please share on our facebook post connected to this blog (HERE).

Dr. Arron Grow is an associate professor and the associate program director for the Organizational Leadership program at City University of Seattle’s School of Applied Leadership.


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