Intellectual Humility And Leadership

Intellectual Humility Can Make You A More Effective Leader

Most of us have been taught to stand firm in our convictions and rigorously defend them when required. Somewhere along the line, this stance became equated with the ability to make good decisions and provide effective leadership.

However, recent studies by Duke University are showing that “my way or the highway” leadership tactics aren’t always the best choice. The ability to be humble, what scientists term intellectual humility, actually helps you to make wiser decisions and to be a valuable, sought-after leader.

Research On Intellectual Humility

The Duke study, run by professor of psychology and neuroscience Mark Leary, defines intellectual humility as “opposite of intellectual arrogance or conceit,” and that “it resembles open-mindedness.” Researchers also found this trait to be non-partisan, showing up in liberals, non-liberals, religious and non-religious subjects

A recent article on defines intellectual humility as “the willingness to accept that you might be wrong and to not get defensive when arguments or information that’s unfavorable to your position comes to light.” states that “intellectual humility is the opposite of intellectual arrogance, having a lot in common with open mindedness. Intellectually humble people can also have strong opinions on something, and they don’t necessarily have to be humble in other circumstances. Basically, this trait shows how likely you are to accept that you might be wrong when faced with evidence.”

Embodying healthy humility can have a major positive effect on your personal and business success. Authentic Leadership International ( can help you in this development and that of other traits to enhance your leadership skills and become a sought-after resource in your organization.

Impacts On Decision-Making

Intellectually humble leaders may be better poised to make more effective decisions because they can quickly absorb and accurately evaluate information coming at them without being overly influenced by their own beliefs, says the Duke study.

When presented with facts, study subjects “who displayed intellectual humility also did a better job evaluating the quality of evidence — even in mundane matters,” according to the research. “For instance, when presented with arguments about the benefits of flossing, intellectually humble people correctly distinguished strong, fact-based arguments from weak ones.”

Leadership And Intellectual Humility states that while intellectual humility might sound brand new, it’s been studied by business leaders for many years, including people like Stanford business school professor Bob Sutton.

Back in 2006, Sutton wrote that humility is a must for sound leadership. As a leader, it’s important “to not be too attached to what you believe because, otherwise, it undermines your ability to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ evidence that clashes with your opinions,” he stated.

Duke’s professor Leary concurs, stating, “If you’re sitting around a table at a meeting and the boss is very low in intellectual humility, he or she isn’t going to listen to other people’s suggestions. Yet we know that good leadership requires broadness of perspective and taking as many perspectives into account as possible.”

Intellectual humility allows leaders to listen to their teams and make the decisions that ensure wide-ranging success for everyone involved—and those are the leaders that will continue to thrive in today’s constantly shifting business arena.

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