Practical Humility: A Key Trait of Top Leaders

ThinkstockPhotos-144958718What differentiates the most successful leaders from others? It’s not just one attribute that helps them be effective. However, there are a handful of traits that are increasing in their importance. I cover these traits in my book, High Velocity Hiring, one of which is practical humility.

Many traits, including practical humility, have helped Supplemental Health Care President and CEO Lesa Francis in her career. Some aspects came from personal experience and others from a business perspective.

On a personal level, the fact that she had a strong work ethic her entire life has served her well. Francis is also fortunate to be surrounded by a great support system — her husband and family. As a result, she did not have to make a choice between having a family and furthering her career.

Francis has also had some fabulous business mentors throughout her career. Several were in the early days when she needed their example and direction most, and those relationships molded her into the type of leader she is today. Francis has also been fortunate to be surrounded by talented teams at every company she led and firmly believes in the saying, “hire people as good or better than you and you will succeed.” Following that advice has certainly been key to her success.

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CEO’s with practical humility hold people responsible for doing their part while remaining compassionate as a leader. For example, Francis says that she may not necessarily be smarter or more talented than others, but just had bosses that trusted her and allowed her to take on more and more responsibility. And when you are truly grateful and humble you know you need to work hard, be dedicated, treat people fairly, and be open to feedback in order to be successful. People are drawn to leaders that appreciate them and make them feel valued. The best leaders know they can’t do it all and need talented people on their teams in order to reach their goals.

Another important trait of today’s top leaders is courageous honesty. Being courageously honest allows these leaders to build better customer relationships based upon mutuality: A belief that, for the relationship to succeed, each party must get its needs met. The organization gets the talent it needs when it’s needed. The staffing provider is equitably compensated for the value it provides. Both meet expectations that make the partnership work.

For example, Francis takes the time to listen to her customer and understand their goals and the demands of their business, which is the foundation of a powerful and positive partnership. Once you understand what is motivating their expectations and actions, it is easier to create solutions that will provide value.

However, real partnerships come from being confident enough to discuss and challenge expectations that are not reasonable. There are many examples where companies in the staffing industry will say yes to everything the customer wants even if they don’t think they can perform and then fail to deliver. Discussing barriers and producing data to support a concern will earn more respect from customers. Francis encourages individuals she works with to have the courage to be honest about expectations with their customers. She has developed some of her longest, most rewarding customer relationships by not necessarily telling them what they wanted to hear, but by giving them honest feedback, which they needed to hear.

Leadership jobs in staffing are challenging. Executives and managers with key traits, including practical humility and courageous humility, are better equipped to successfully navigate the shifting challenges they’ll face on a daily basis.

MORE: Motivation May Be Key to Increased Female Leadership Within Staffing Organizations

Scott Wintrip

Scott Wintrip
Scott Wintrip is the president of the Wintrip Consulting Group. He was named to the Staffing 100 by Staffing Industry Analysts in 2011-2016 and was among the first class of the Staffing 100 Hall of Fame in 2017. He can be reached at scott (at) ScottWintrip (dot) com.

Scott Wintrip

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