A Q&A on Humility

We continue to emphasize the importance of humility and effective leadership at Hogan in 2018, as evidenced by this article in The Wall Street Journal last week. Because this has been such a hot topic for us, it has also generated a lot of questions from those within our network and beyond. To address these inquiries, the Hogan Research Division developed the following FAQ:

Q: Is humility comprised of low Recognition, Bold, Leisurely, Power, and Hedonism?

A: Although humility has moderate, negative relationships to Recognition, Bold, Leisurely, Power, and Hedonism (respectively), it is not a composite of these five scales. The humility scale consists of 20 items, 15 of which are brand new. The remaining 5 items come from Bold (Overconfidence subscale) and Recognition (Aversions subscale).

Q: Are humble leaders weak leaders? Will they be pushovers in the workplace?

A: Humble leadership should not be confused with weak leadership. For instance, humble leaders may listen to others and consider alternate viewpoints, resulting in a more beneficial decision. Humble leaders can (and should) demonstrate confidence, show assertiveness, and set forth a clear vision for the organization.

Q: Are all humble leaders inherently effective?

A: No; humility is just one component of effective leadership. For instance, effective leaders should also be intelligent and competent.

Q: Are all effective leaders inherently humble?

A: Effective leaders often turn out to be humble, but not always. Some effective leaders may have low-to-moderate levels of humility and compensate in other ways. Other leaders low in humility may be effective in the short-term, but not necessarily the long-term.

Q: Is charisma always bad?

A: No. There are two types of charisma: personalized and socialized. Socialized charismatic leaders genuinely care about their followers and empower them to fulfill their vision. In contrast, personalized charismatic leaders are exploitative towards followers and resort to authoritative means for carrying out their vision.

Q: Are humility and charisma opposites of one another?

A: No; humility and charisma are not opposites. They are, however, independent of one another. In general, humble individuals tend to be lower on personalized charisma and higher on socialized charisma.

Q: Are charisma and narcissism the same thing?

A: No. Personalized charismatics tend to be narcissistic, but personalized charisma and narcissism are not identical. For instance, charismatic leaders (both socialized and personalized) are passionate and visionary, whereas narcissists may or may not possess those characteristics.

Q: How does gender factor into leader humility research?

A: Our research suggests that humility is related to higher performance, greater engagement, and reduced turnover intentions, but we did not find evidence that gender impacts these relationships. In other words, we expect beneficial outcomes from leader humility to be similar for men and women.