This one leadership trait can make a big difference
Being a humble leader – this one trait could mean the difference between a team that is comfortable to speak up and a team that isn’t. But according to Dr Amy Silver, this style of leadership requires courage.
While staff may be fearful of speaking up within an organisation, leaders are often fearful of showing vulnerability. But fear at work, most notably linked with imposter phenomenon, can be one of the biggest things that gets in the way of workers and leaders thriving in their roles.
“That idea of doubting ourselves and protecting ourselves is so clearly present at work and it just gets in our way,” the psychologist and author of The Loudest Guest told MPA. She said the best way leaders can help staff deal with imposter syndrome is to role-model courage by owning their own fears.
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“Everything we know about being able to have a growth mindset, being able to be courageous and take risks and become more courageous in our communication - it needs to be sanctioned by the leaders and there needs to be the space for it,” she said.
When business owners and managers own their fears and self-doubt at work, it creates a safe space for workers to do the same. Once we are all able to own our fears and help each other, then it becomes easier to get on with doing our jobs and achieve our potential, she said.
This, however, should be done in small steps.
“You wouldn’t say ‘I’ve got no idea what our strategy is for the next year’,” said Silver. “But you would say ‘I’m feeling conscious that I need more information on’… rather than saying, I know everything.
“It’s the little, tiny, role modelling of the fact that we know that we’re not all-knowing.”
A huge amount of research has been done on this in terms of “humble leadership” rather than the “command-control leadership” style – the type of leadership that implies the manager is all-knowing and powerful, she said.
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“The humble leader would be one who seeks more information, looks for different opinions and really goes out of their way to create the environment where people feel safe enough to share because then we can build on that cognitive diversity,” she explained.
Once the leader has role-modelled the risk of being humble about their knowledge, they can then help staff suffering from imposter phenomenon by creating the space for them to take risks and own some of their own fears.