1. Section Editor(s): Raso, Rosanne MS, RN, NEA-BC

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Your nursing leadership depends on how you use many different types of power: expert power, positional power, and your own personal power. If you enjoy being powerful, it has its benefits; however, use it wisely and don't let it go to your head. Humility is really what you want to practice, although you'll need to be both bold and humble at the same time. Like everything else, it takes balance.

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When you read about humility and leadership, you find it's an important, yet often neglected, component of excellent management. Humility focuses on you instead of me. As management guru Kenneth Blanchard says, "People with humility do not think less of themselves, they just think about themselves less." You may recall the old adage "there's no 'I' in T-E-A-M." Or you may think of the concept of servant leadership. Both are relevant.


The opposites of humility-arrogance and hubris-aren't pretty. When you see these behaviors, you probably shrink away, trying to escape. You don't want to be that person and you don't want to follow that person. This isn't to say that you shouldn't be strong, take credit for your successes, and tell your story. We aren't talking about weakness, timidity, or staying out of the limelight. You do need to be an effective leader and a role model.


Letting others lead and giving them credit is powerful in my eyes. Helping others succeed is part of servant leadership. It's also leading with humility plus a strong measure of security. Have you given project leadership to a direct report, provided support, removed barriers, and let him or her present results to senior management? If so, you're practicing the art of leaning in and stepping back at the same time. Even if outcomes aren't what were expected, sharing both the burden and the learning from failure is the right thing to do.


Although you may want to preserve your confidence and organizational image by overlooking your own mistakes or shortcomings, this behavior is contrary to humility and precludes followership. Acknowledge failures and concentrate on lessons learned. That's how organizations and departments grow and prosper. It takes humility to do this well. Getting help and suggestions from either supporters or outsiders when you've identified your own limitations isn't weakness. Admit you have a lot to learn and it will role model the important balance between power and humbleness.


There are other practices that contribute to humble leadership-listening is one of them. Are we really listening or being respectful when we're looking at e-mail at the same time someone is speaking, allowing frequent interruptions, or when the agenda is only ours and not inclusive of the rest of the team? I'm guilty as well; we all have room for improvement. True listening-inclusivity and curiosity about others' thoughts, suggestions, opinions, and concerns-reflects openness. A voluntary 360- or even 180-degree review indicates sincerity about both an unpretentious style and an enthusiasm for learning and growing with others. Remember, more you and less me.


Reflect on humility. It inspires loyalty and portrays you as a real and fallible human being who believes in others for ideas and success. Your team, whether direct reports, collegial, or higher-up, will respect you for it. Humility isn't weakness. It's powerful.



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