Diverse leaders

Explore how humility can be a powerful asset in climbing the career ladder and achieving success as a leader.

Traditionally, Leaders Have Been Dominant

In the past, leadership was often associated with dominance and assertiveness. Leaders were expected to be strong, authoritative figures who commanded respect and made all the decisions. However, this traditional view of leadership is evolving.

Today, thanks to thought leaders such as Brené Brown, there is a growing recognition that humility can also be a valuable trait in a leader. Humble leaders are those who are willing to listen to others, admit their mistakes, and put the needs of their team above their own. They lead with empathy and create a collaborative and inclusive work environment.

Leadership Humility Is Growing

The concept of leadership humility is gaining traction in modern organisations. Brené Brown has helped people understand that showing vulnerability takes courage and is seen as a strength rather than a weakness. Leaders are realising that they cannot have all the answers or make all the decisions themselves. They need to rely on the expertise and insights of their team members.

Humble leaders understand the value of diverse perspectives and actively seek input from others. They are not threatened by differing opinions, but rather see them as opportunities for growth and learning. This open-mindedness and willingness to learn from others is what sets humble leaders apart.

Career Advancement Challenges for Humble Leaders

Despite the growing recognition of the importance of humility in leadership, humble leaders may face unique challenges when it comes to career advancement. In a competitive corporate environment, traits like assertiveness and self-promotion are often rewarded, while humility may be seen as a weakness.

Humble leaders may struggle to advocate for themselves and showcase their achievements. They may be overlooked for promotions or opportunities because they do not actively promote their own accomplishments. Humble leaders often also recognise and value the traits and achievements of others. This can create a barrier to their career growth. 

Mentoring Can Help Humble Leaders Advance

Recent research reveals that mentoring can help humble leaders climb the organisational hierarchy. By mentoring and coaching others, humble leaders are able to build strong relationships with others, and in turn, their superiors have increased positive perception of their leadership ability and status. When humble leaders mentor others, their superiors believe they have increased status, such that they are good at inspiring, motivating and sparking others to action, and can influence without using formal authority.

These humble leaders often make amazing mentors. They are more likely to connect with their mentees, authentically share career stories and challenges, and increase job satisfaction and performance in others.

Humble leaders are more likely to engage in mentorship, and when they engage in mentorship, this brings improved career outcomes including increased status, influence and promotability.


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Key Takeaways For Mentoring Coordinators

Mentoring coordinators should also encourage humble leaders to participate in mentoring as it will help their leadership growth and advancement of their career. For leaders who are hesitant to sign up, mentoring coordinators can speak about the benefits of being a mentor which include:

  • Increased leadership, mentoring and coaching skills
  • Increased confidence
  • Increased self awareness
  • Increased connection with others and the organisation
  • Increased likelihood for career promotion and success

Mentoring coordinators should consider how they can train leaders and mentors to display more humility and authenticity. This could involve education that increases self-awareness, active listening, being open to feedback and having a growth mindset.


Chan, Elsa; Hekman, David R; Foo, Maw Der (2024). An examination of whether and how leader humility enhances leader personal career success. University of Sussex. Journal contribution. https://hdl.handle.net/10779/uos.25211912.v1

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