Tech Leadership In So Many Words… #15 Humility

Andrew Weaver
August 4, 2023

Life is a long lesson in humility”

J M Barrie

Having reached a senior tech leadership role, you have the right to feel a sense of pride in your achievements.

But leadership requires many things from you, not least a quality that’s the opposite of pride – humility.

Humility requires you to leave your ego at the door, something your team will appreciate enormously because we’ve all experienced the top-down, transactional boss who leads by a mixture of job title and ego, normally of the inflated variety.

So here’s a leading question for those of you on this leadership journey from a technical background…

Is it more challenging to leave that ego in check when you’ve always been a star of the show?

Does that perfectionist in you manifest itself into a struggle to delegate, trust and ditch that aforementioned ego?

You may be coming from a background where acknowledging there are things you don’t know is a sign of weakness, not strength.

But always needing to win an argument and being right does not make for great leadership. They will almost always become pyrrhic victories where your short-term sense of importance equals an attritional long-term impact on those around you. 

Humility is critical to effective leadership

tech leadership humility

It means not trying to bluff your way out of difficult situations you’re facing for the first time, but honestly admitting a deficit in your knowledge, and that despite your seniority you remain eager to learn and grow.

It’s OK to ask for help, from peers, mentors or coaches. To lean on the expertise of others when you need it. 

A smart leader will be failure-tolerant and will shape a team culture with a similar approach. The team will discuss vulnerabilities without fear.

Where psychological safety is a prominent element of the organization and not just something that’s nice to have.

You should be comfortable putting your hand up as a leader and admitting any stumbles rather than covering them up or shifting the blame, thus potentially encouraging the same approach from your team. 

Recognising your own fallibility allows you to accept colleagues’ mistakes with empathy and create an environment where failure is not fatal but another part of the journey to ultimate success. 

What’s often worse is when the egotistical and insecure leader needs to claim credit for the achievements of others.

Those others will quickly jump ship.

Humbly acknowledging colleagues’ triumphs, and praising generously and sincerely will strengthen team relationships. It will also inspire members to take initiative and responsibility.

By practising humility, you will have even more to be proud of.

Want to learn more about CTO Academy and our Technology Leadership Courses, including lectures and discussions on Humility in Leadership?

1. Explore the resources on our website.

2. Take a look at our executive leadership course, The Digital MBA for Technology Leaders. It is continuously winning rave reviews from technology leaders around the world. And with a good reason too.

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