Published: April 10, 2024


Humble leaders are traditionally thought to create a great deal of human and social capital, yet be overshadowed by self-promoting rivals for promotions. We propose that through informal career mentoring, humble leaders can improve their organizational status and promotability. We tested our model among a multisource sample of 610 leaders across 18 industries and 21 job functions who participated in a leader development program. Leader humility was reported by the focal leaders' peers, leader mentoring behavior was reported by the focal leaders' direct reports, leader status was reported by the focal leaders' immediate bosses, and leader promotability was reported by the focal leaders' superiors. Results generally confirmed that leader humility predicted leader mentoring behavior, which in turn predicted leader status, and ultimately higher leader promotability ratings. We discuss how our findings extend and enrich the literatures on leader humility and mentoring, showing how humble leaders can ascend organizational hierarchies.

While a dominant personality can help you climb the corporate ladder, new research shows there is also a “humble route” to career advancement.

“Conventional wisdom is that you’ve got to be Machiavellian and self-promote and bully to rise to the top, but humility is also a catalyst for leadership success,” said David Hekman, associate professor of organizational leadership and information analytics in the Leeds School of Business. Hekman co-authored the study, published in January 2024 in the journal Human Resource Management. 

That’s good news for leaders who naturally shy away from self-promotion and praise the strengths of others—and aren’t afraid to admit their own shortcomings. This path to promotion hinges on status and involves cultivating a network of loyal followers in the workplace.

Read the full article here.