Project Managers, Show Me Your Humility

‘Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.’
C.S. Lewis

Much is made of ambition when we first start thinking about our working lives. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’, ‘What personal development do you need to progress?’.

These are all valid questions designed to provide us with focus as we look for the thing that generates the passion inside us. However, in lots of instances these questions make us elevate our own ambitions so that we’re only focussed on what we need to succeed.

Having ambition should never be destructive to the team that you are part of, nor is it an excuse to ride roughshod over others in your desire to ‘get to the top’. It’s an important driving force for your own happiness and wellbeing, but only if you do it in the right way.

In a recent Harvard Business Review survey of 750,000 people entitled ‘We like leaders who underrate themselves’, the reviewers found that leaders’ views of themselves generally don’t fit with how other people perceive them. They found:
• The most effective leaders underrate themselves
• Leaders who underrate themselves have the most engaged employees
• The fewer skills you overrate yourself on, the more effective you are as a leader.

This is certainly true of the best leaders that I’ve worked with and it’s a quality that I look for today and encourage in the people that I mentor.

Humble leaders are quick to acknowledge when they get things wrong and always seek and respect the opinions of others. They are never arrogant or over confident and they always pass on personal praise to the team around them.

The team, as a result, support the leader through thick and thin. They never question why they have to work late or complete a task they aren’t normally responsible for.

Lift the team and they’ll lift you up too

A Catalyst study of 1500 people last year, found that ‘when employees observed altruistic or selfless behaviours in their managers – a style characterised by humility, empowerment, courage and holding people responsible for their results – they were more likely to feel part o,f and work as, a team.’

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve been told a project or PMO manager is seen as arrogant. Not only is it not a great quality to have as a person, it also destroys the very fabric of that which you need to create in a project or delivery community: strong relationships and a highly productive and engaged team.

Project management is and always will be a team game, even if it’s only a team of two. Self-belief is critical to personal success, however, only when that’s matched with modesty is it a recipe for success.

Never forget, that you need to elevate others to elevate yourself. Get that right and your ambitions will be matched with results and you’ll feel great about it too.

ProjectNPS is the world’s only tool for capturing feedback on leadership performance. To find out the benefits it can bring to your organisation and how to get a 15-month licence for the price of 12, email us

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