Braggarts Step Aside; Study Finds Humility Makes Better Bosses

boss leadership techniquesBosses with swagger and outsized egos may achieve notoriety, but they don't necessarily make the best leaders, new research finds.

According to a study to soon publish in the Academy of Management Journal, humble leaders are more effective and better liked. Moreover, their modest style of leadership can lead to stronger organizations, and employees who constantly keep growing and improving, says study co-author Bradley Owens, professor of business management at the University at Buffalo.

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Researchers from the University at Buffalo and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee asked 55 study participants in various industries and levels of management -- from supervisors to CEOs -- to describe the way in which humble leaders act in the workplace and how their actions differ from those of their more arrogant counterparts.

Across the board, study participants said that the ability of those in charge to show others how to grow was key to effective leadership.

Leaders of all ranks said that admitting mistakes, highlighting strengths of those being led and demonstrating willingness to learn were at the core of humble leadership, according to Owens' statement releasing the findings. "And they view these three behaviors as being powerful predictors of their own as well as the organization's growth."

These humble leaders demonstrate to followers that learning, growth, mistakes, uncertainty and false starts are normal and expected in the workplace, according to the study. In turn, those actions produce followers and entire organizations that constantly keep growing and improving.

For those in leadership positions who seek personal and organizational growth, researchers offer this advice: You can't fake humility. You either genuinely want to grow and develop, or you don't. And employees and other followers recognize the difference.

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David Schepp

Staff Writer

David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.

Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.

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