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Radical Humility

Radical Humility

Radical Humility

Use this framework to get the best out of people

When he was approaching 50 years old, Urs Koenig, a professor and ultra endurance champion, signed up to be a NATO and United Nations peacekeeping commander. He already had layers of experience as a manager but the military training made him think again. He could see that there is an alternative to top-down leadership.


Radical Humility, the framework (and title of his book), emphasises the importance of humility in leadership and organisational culture. It goes beyond conventional notions of humility by advocating a more radical and transformative approach to leadership behaviour.  There are five steps in Koenig's framework:


1.      Dig Deep: This is to avoid blind spots that you may have had in the past so you have a greater sense of self-awareness now.

2.      Tough on results, tender on people: You may have been heavy handed in the past but now is the time to show high standards and high touch in your management approach.

3.      Lead like a compass: Many of us have the failing of micromanaging when we need to move to empowering with the people with whom we work.

4.      Full transparency: How often do managers keep things secret (claiming "need to know") when being open and transparent opens doors and minds.

5.      Champion a fearless culture: in the wrong sort of culture people don't speak up. In an open culture they are fearless, speak their minds and it leads to radically improved results.


The key to Koenig's thinking is humility – “radical humility”. In summary he teaches us:


Leadership Approach: Radical Humility encourages leaders to adopt a mindset of openness, vulnerability, and self-awareness. Instead of asserting authority or expertise, leaders practice active listening, empathy, and a willingness to learn from others, regardless of their position or status within the organisation.


Collaborative Culture: In organisations where Radical Humility is embraced, there is a shift towards fostering a culture of collaboration, trust, and inclusivity. Employees feel valued and empowered to contribute their ideas and perspectives, leading to greater innovation and problem-solving.


Learning Orientation: Radical Humility promotes a continuous learning orientation within the organisation. Leaders and employees are encouraged to embrace feedback, acknowledge mistakes, and view failures as opportunities for growth and improvement.


Servant Leadership: At its core, Radical Humility aligns with the principles of servant leadership, where leaders prioritise the needs of their team members and the organisation above their own self-interests. By serving others and facilitating their development, leaders can cultivate a more engaged and high-performing workforce.


Impact on Organisational Performance: Organisations that embrace Radical Humility often experience benefits such as enhanced employee morale, stronger teamwork, improved decision-making, and increased adaptability in the face of change. Ultimately, Radical Humility contributes to a more resilient and sustainable organisational culture.


Overall, Radical Humility challenges traditional notions of leadership and encourages a more compassionate, inclusive, and socially responsible approach to leading and managing organisations.

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