Humble Bosses Are More Effective, Study Finds

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Some employers may like to rule with an iron fist, but a new study suggests that humble bosses are actually more effective.

Researchers at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York surveyed 16 CEOs, 20 mid-level leaders and 19 front-line leaders to determine whether or not humility played an active role in a manager’s effectiveness.

According to the study’s findings, the leaders of all ranks said admitting mistakes, spotlighting follower strengths and modeling teachability led to bosses being more liked and ultimately more successful in the workplace.

“Leaders who can overcome their fears and broadcast their feelings as they work through the messy internal growth process will be viewed more favorably by their followers,” Bradley Owens, assistant professor of organization and human resources at the University at Buffalo School of Management, said in a press release. “They also will legitimize their followers' own growth journeys and will have higher-performing organizations."

The study did find, however, that not all humble leaders are created equal. Researchers said that while humility was unquestionably beneficial to male employers, female employers had to walk a fine line because being to humble could result in their competence being called into question.

"Our results suggest that female leaders often experience a 'double bind,'" Owens says. "They are expected to be strong leaders and humble females at the same time."

The study isn’t the first to suggest hardcore management isn’t the way to go. Several interviews with human resource consultants conducted by the Associated Press in October found that taking time to talk with your staff and listen to their concerns will go a long way toward helping you keep them.

A follow-up study by the University at Buffalo set to be released in Organization Science sometime next year using data from more than 700 employees and 218 leaders confirmed the original UB study’s results.

Got a humble boss that you’d like to buy a holiday gift for? Check out this MainStreet roundup for some great suggestions!

—Jeanine Skowronski is staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach her by email at Skowronski.jeanine@thestreet.com, or follow her on Twitter at @JeanineSko.

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