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Modesty brings gains: humble leaders build empowered teams

December 23, 2022

Humble leaders help teams be more productive and collaborative, indicates new research from Ohio State University. The study was conducted with more than 500 Chinese teachers. It showed that when they had coordinators who showed humility on a daily basis, they felt more empowered to share their knowledge and experience with colleagues.

The reason was that humble coordinators made the teachers feel in a psychologically safe environment to take risks and express themselves more, explains Roger Goddard, professor at Ohio State University and coordinator of the study. According to him, “when people feel their leader admits mistakes and is open to learning from others, everyone contributes more and makes these groups more effective”.

The leaders’ humility was measured across three dimensions: the coordinators’ willingness to admit when they didn’t know how to do something; their insight into the strengths of others; and their ability to teach and be open to advice from other teachers. 

The results, published in the journal Educational Studies, revealed that teachers who rated their leaders as being more humble were more likely to share their knowledge and experience with them and colleagues.

While the research was done in China, the authors believe the outcomes would be similar in the United States and elsewhere.

“There’s a lot of evidence that suggests trust is a key part of successful organizations. And feeling psychologically safe and empowered to share your knowledge in the workplace is part of building trust, and that’s what humble leaders help create,” he said to Ohio State News.

Source: Educational Studies