There is much discussion these days about “servant leadership” and “transformational leadership”. These are important concepts that will continue to be debated and refined as we all seek ways to re-humanize organizations. That said, humble leadership is something different, not mutually exclusive, but categorically different, in the following ways:
1. Humble Leadership is a team sport, not an individual leadership style, goal, or value system. Leadership comes out of the group when the group has achieved norms of “speaking up,” psychological safety for all of its members, and a dialogic communication and decision making process.
2. Humble Leadership challenges norms of individualism and competition as dysfunctional and evolves norms of group collaboration and accountability (From “I" to “We").
3.. Humble Leadership emphasizes collapsing “professional distance” between hierarchical echelons and between team members. In the modern world of complexity, perpetual change, and high degree of interdependence, formal leaders and team members must be open and trusting with each other so that information that affects safety, quality, employee and customer experience are all maximized.
4. Humble Leadership accepts that hierarchy and standardization (bureaucracy) are inevitable in large organizations but emphasizes that relationships across hierarchical boundaries and between formal roles can and should evolve into personized relationships that maximize openness and trust.
5. Humble Leadership embraces the reality that work in the future will be more ambiguous, perpetually changing, complex and interdependent and, therefore, that leadership itself will perpetually evolve into new and, as yet unpredictable forms.
6. Humble Leadership is fundamentally different from Transformational, Servant, or any other form of leadership because it is a process that can be used and implemented by any appointed leader. Humble leadership is a verb, not an attribute of a person in a leadership position, and can, therefore, be exercised by any member of any given work group.