Ego is still a dirty word when it comes to corporate leadership.

Ego is still a dirty word when it comes to corporate leadership. Photo: Greg Newington

Here's a fact that may surprise you. The most successful people in business are the most humble.

Please don't misunderstand. Humble doesn't mean weak. In fact, experts say that the best CEO is someone who has drive and passion, but tempers those qualities with humility. Successful leaders know when to talk and when to listen. They are open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. And they are open to change - if the change makes sense and helps the business or organisation grow and prosper.

Many of us know a chief ego officer. That's any leader, a CEO, a manager or even the president of a club or a chair of a committee, who puts his or her ego ahead of the welfare of employees, customers, members and, ultimately, the organisation. This type of leader is often cheered as a role model. But, in the long run, the arrogance and self-importance bring ruin.

What can turn a chief ego officer into an effective, successful chief executive officer? Most often it is a humbling experience.

Common examples are PR nightmares such as a loss of major customers, a strike or a business decision that implodes. The result is forced change. If the leader is wise, he or she changes, too.

Also, a humble leader can lessen the effect of problems and put the organisation back on the road to credibility.

So how can you develop some humility? Here are a few simple tips that can help all of us.

  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Count to three after someone speaks to make sure they have finished their thought before you reply with yours.
  • Surround yourself with people who have skills you don't, and listen to their opinions.
  • When there is more than one choice to a situation, review all the choices, listen to proponents on all sides and then make a decision.
  • Value other people's time as much as you value your own.
  • Give credit to others for their input and ideas.
  • Don't tout your aspirations. Instead, help others reach their goals.
  • Offer to help your colleagues if you have free time once your work is finished.
  • Thank people for what they do for you and for the organisation.

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