Episode 134: Humble Leadership and the 7 Signs of Arrogance

The 90th Percentile: An Unconventional Leadership Podcast

Published: March 27, 2024


Why is humility important for leaders? This pivotal question underpins Zenger Folkman’s two decades of research into how leadership traits, specifically humility and arrogance, affect leadership effectiveness Humble leaders tend to empower their employees by recognizing their strengths and contributions. This leads to increased employee engagement and motivation. People want confidence yet humble leaders. So we did an in depth analysis of arrogance and humility and found seven signs of arrogance to watch out for to make sure your workforce sees you as truly humble.

Key Learnings

  1. The Essence of Humility in Leadership: Humility in leadership is not about modesty or underselling oneself. It is an honest self-awareness that involves acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses. This trait allows leaders to set realistic goals and continuously seek improvement. Understanding and embracing humility can significantly enhance a leader’s effectiveness by fostering a culture of trust, openness, and mutual respect within the organization.
  2. The “Humbitious” Leader: Leaders who combine high ambition with low ego, termed as “humbitious,” tend to outperform their high-ego counterparts. This blend of humility and ambition drives them to achieve great results without overshadowing their team’s contributions. Their leadership style promotes a positive work environment, encourages collaboration, and leads to sustainable success.
  3. Impact on Team Dynamics: Humble leaders create a safe space for feedback and collaboration, which is crucial for building strong, cohesive teams. By valuing each team member’s input and fostering an inclusive environment, these leaders enhance engagement and motivation, leading to improved team performance and innovation.
  4. Navigating the Narcissistic Fallacy: While some leaders may believe that narcissism or arrogance can be beneficial, the research suggests that this is a short-term strategy at best. Sustainable success and leadership effectiveness are more closely associated with the ability to build and maintain trusting relationships, rather than relying on an inflated sense of self.
  5. Cultivating Effective Leadership through Humility: The journey towards becoming a more humble leader involves actively seeking feedback, recognizing one’s limitations, and demonstrating a genuine commitment to team development. Leaders who practice humility not only achieve higher levels of effectiveness but also contribute to a more inclusive and supportive organizational culture.

Connect with Jack Zenger


Zenger Folkman hosts an exclusive live webinar every month, where you can meet Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman, and join in a conversation about their latest research in leadership development. Find out more information and register here.

Additional Resources

Why Humility is Important— Article by Jack Zenger