All True Leaders Have This in Common–And It’s Now What You Think

Many would describe this trait as a weakness. But it can actually be your greatest strength.

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In business, it’s often the self-promoters who command attention. They think of themselves as ‘self-made success stories’-proud of what they’ve built on their own.


We all learned from someone. And we all need help sometimes. The greatest leaders are the ones who continue learning from others, and continue giving back.

That’s why the key to great leadership is:


Humility is defined by Merriam-Webster as: The quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people.

Why is humility important?

Think back to your early days of work. In the beginning, you might have respected a new boss because you heard s/he graduated from a great business school. That’s not an easy accomplishment, and it surely helped develop some of his or her ‘leadership qualities’.

But after a few months, how much did that matter to you?

Now think about the manager that took time out of their busy schedule, to help you with the problem you had been struggling with. Or the boss that was willing to try out your ideas, even though everyone else screamed that you were the new guy (or gal) that lacked experience.

Maybe they didn’t have an MBA.

But they did have your back.

The humble leader isn’t always the most efficient person on the team. Sometimes, they’re not even the most skilled.

But they know how to bring out everyone else’s best.

Humble leaders:

  • ask questions
  • aren’t afraid of change
  • provide others opportunities to shine
  • don’t take themselves too seriously
  • admit their mistakes
  • possess a learning mindset

Being humble doesn’t mean that you lack self-confidence, or that you’re afraid to stand up for your principles. It does mean recognizing that you don’t know everything. By acknowledging that experience is the best teacher, humble people don’t just learn from their own life perspective. They learn from everybody else’s, too.

So who can you learn from?

Learn from other leaders.

Learn from the people you lead.

Learn from your peers.

Learn from your competition.

Learn from the innovators.

Learn from the traditionalists.

Learn from your friends and family.

Learn from the person you just met.

Learn from the people you like.

And from the ones you don’t like, too.

Learn from every single person you meet, every day of your life.

Because to be a great leader, you must first learn how to follow.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on

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