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Humility: Our Current Understanding of the Construct and its Role in Organizations


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Since 2000, researchers and practitioners have shown increased interest in humility. This construct has been studied in disciplines ranging from organizational behaviour to positive psychology, culminating in a wealth of information that can now be analysed and reviewed through the lens of humility in organizations. This review begins by reflecting on existing conceptualizations of humility and presenting a summary of findings that reflects a greater consensus in definitional work than some researchers may realize. It then considers the progress that has been made in measuring humility by specifying key measurement strategies. It next synthesizes existing empirical findings on humility to illuminate the uniqueness of the construct. It also shows that researchers have focused on studying dependent variables that exist at multiple organizational levels and that largely comprise pro-social and relational variables, emotional well-being, and learning and performance outcomes. The paper concludes with recommendations for future research.
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International Journal of Management Reviews, Vol. 00, 1–20 (2018)
DOI: 10.1111/ijmr.12160
Humility: Our Current Understanding of
the Construct and its Role in Organizations
Rob Nielsen and Jennifer A. Marrone1
JLL, 601 Union Street, Suite 2800, Seattle, WA 98101, USA, and 1Department of Management, Albers School of
Business and Economics, Seattle University, 901 12th Avenue, PO Box 222000, Seattle, WA 98122-1090, USA
Corresponding author email:
Since 2000, researchers and practitioners have shown increased interest in humility.
This construct has been studied in disciplines ranging from organizational behaviour to
positive psychology, culminating in a wealth of information that can now be analysedand
reviewed through the lens of humility in organizations. This review begins by reflecting
on existing conceptualizations of humility and presenting a summary of findings that
reflects a greater consensus in definitional work than some researchers may realize. It
then considers the progress that has been made in measuring humility by specifying key
measurement strategies. It next synthesizes existing empirical findings on humility to
illuminate the uniqueness of the construct. It also shows that researchers have focused
on studying dependent variables that exist at multiple organizational levels and that
largely comprise pro-social and relational variables, emotional well-being, and learning
and performance outcomes. The paper concludes with recommendations for future
A great deal of research and popular press attention
has been devoted to the role of humility in organiza-
tions since 2000. Humility has recently been defined
as a dispositional quality of a person – whether that
person is a leader or an employee – that reflects ‘a
self-view that something greater than the self exists’
(Ou et al. 2014, p. 37). Humble persons possess a
self-regulatory capacity that guards against excess
and fosters pro-social tendencies (Jankowski et al.
2013; Owens et al. 2013), which mitigate common
human vices that lead to dysfunction over the long
term, such as hubris, self-aggrandizement and pride
(Peterson and Seligman 2004). Rather than having
an excessive focus on oneself and one’s positive
qualities, humble individuals acknowledge their
limitations alongside their strengths, seek diverse
feedback and appreciate contributions from others
Both authors contributed equally to this paper.
without experiencing significant ego threat (e.g.
Owens and Hekman 2012; Tangney 2000).
Understanding humility is important for organiza-
tional scholars because it underlies the choice and
capacity to approach one’s work (and life) from a
larger, interdependent perspective that is productive,
relational and sustainable. Humility is generally con-
sidered a character strength that is deeply aligned
with and uniquely representative of the interdepen-
dent nature of today’s organizations and marketplaces
(Frostenson 2016). Indeed, the more recent empha-
sis on flatter organizations and bottom-up commu-
nication (Groysberg and Slind 2012) may be di-
rectly spurring interest in developing virtues such
as humility throughout organizations (Owens and
Hekman 2012). This interest is arising in part be-
cause humility fosters a broader understanding of ‘the
small role that one plays in a vast universe’ (Morris
et al. 2005, p. 1331), and humility brings a pro-
relational perspective that is increasingly necessary
for collaboration with diverse parties within and ac-
ross organizational boundaries. Additionally, humble
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2R. Nielsen and J.A. Marrone
organizational leaders model a productive response
to today’s dynamic work environments featuring
growth and continual learning. By encouraging
‘teachability’, wherein human fallibility and depen-
dence are accepted and met with empathy, these
leaders increase the psychological freedom and em-
powerment of employees and spur organizational
progress and innovation (Owens and Hekman 2012).
In a conceptual paper published more than a decade
ago, Vera and Rodriguez-Lopez (2004) discussed hu-
mility as a source of competitive advantage for in-
dividuals, leaders and organizations. Since that time,
the burgeoning empirical research has supported this
Discussions of humility as a human virtue have
had a long history within philosophy and religion.
Human virtues are those core characteristics of per-
sons – or predispositions to act in certain ways – that
lead to human excellence and flourishing (Peterson
and Seligman 2004; Yearley 1990). Thus, interest in
humility has necessarily been intertwined with ques-
tions of morality, such as what makes a person ‘good’
or what are the right ways to act. However, as Frosten-
son (2016, p. 92) noted, ‘a historical account of the
virtue of humility is somewhat problematic . . . Dif-
fering worldviews generate conflicting conceptual-
izations of what humility is and when, how and why it
should be exercised’. For instance, humility has been
reflected in Christianity as man’s relegation of him-
self below God, while moral philosophers have taken
a different and more secular stance, pointing to humil-
ity as the recognition of one’s dependence on others.
Others, such as Nietzsche, have rejected the utility of
humility or regarded it as a vice instead of a virtue.
Detailed historical accounts have been provided in
other papers. The scope of our paper is to review
the scholarly attention given to humility since 2000
within and relevant to the organizational domain.
Gaps in the literature on the role of humility in
organizations provide fertile ground for this review.
If not adequately examined, questions regarding the
definition, measurement and applicability of humility
to organizational performance may stymie research
progress. Furthermore, a large number of research
findings have now emerged, with few attempts to coa-
lesce around common themes and conclusions. In this
paper, we comprehensively review the extant humil-
ity research from disparate fields. We seek to answer
three specific research questions, each with unique
contributions to organizational research. First, does
conceptual and empirical research to date now of-
fer a coherent, compelling picture of what humility
is? Many scholars have noted a lack of established
consensus on the key components of humility. In re-
sponse, we offer a detailed analysis of the theorized
components of humility and uncover important areas
of consensus. In so doing, we move beyond recent
studies in the organizational domain that review the
humility concept (e.g. Ou et al. 2014; Owens et al.
2013). Second, how has humility research evolved
in developing measurement strategies, and what are
the implications when interpreting or designing re-
search? Because the humility construct has proved
challenging to measure, given the relatively high po-
tential for biased self-reports (Davis et al. 2010), re-
viewing this domain provides necessary insights for
organizational scholars wishing to include humility
in future research. Third, can extant empirical find-
ings emerging across various fields be organized into
meaningful categories of outcomes that are of value
to work organizations? Here, we contribute by syn-
thesizing the diverse array of variables considered
with humility, placing intentional emphasis on how
findings further inform key goals relevant to organi-
zational scholarship. We believe that such synthesis
is necessary for clarifying the unique predictive va-
lidity of humility for organizational outcomes and for
encouraging its inclusion into broader management
and organizational studies.
To select articles, we conducted keyword searches
for the term ‘humility’ in online databases (e.g.
EBSCO, ProQuest, JSTOR). Our search included
literature since 2000, and uncovered humility studies
primarily in organizational behaviour (including
management and leadership), positive psychology
and religion. Using Google Scholar, we also searched
for articles that cited prominent published humility
articles. We focused our review on those studies most
relevant to organizational settings; studies focusing
solely on children, for example, were excluded.
A summary of the reviewed studies is found in
Appendix S1 in the Supporting information.
Our review should appeal to a variety of organi-
zational scholars interested in the flourishing of em-
ployees, teams and their leaders. First, at micro-levels
in organizations, scholars seeking to understand how
employees initiate and maintain productive interper-
sonal relationships at work are likely to be interested
in the strong relationships between humility and help-
fulness, learning and performance, even after Big 5
personality traits, self-esteem, impression manage-
ment and others are controlled (e.g. Exline and Hill
2012; Owens et al. 2013). Additionally, our review ad-
dresses increasing calls for greater consideration of
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Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Humility 3
how organizational leadership relates to ethical out-
comes, as it provides novel insights into how, when
and why organizational leaders are likely to hold
an others-oriented view, especially in times of stress
and adversity, that prevents leader impulses towards
defensiveness, aggression and excessive self-focus.
Studying humble leadership, for example, can lead to
a new understanding of the collaborative behaviours,
information-sharing and joint decision-making that
are necessary for performance in today’s complex and
dynamic work environments (Ou et al. 2014). Organi-
zational leadership scholars may also note interesting
parallels among humble, authentic and servant lead-
ership. These scholars may also use our review to
further study these leadership types together, uncover
important areas of divergence, and specify each type’s
unique predictive value. Finally, given the particu-
lar impacts of humility on team members’ contribu-
tions beyond conscientiousness and efficacy (Owens
et al. 2013) and given the construct’s predictive in-
fluence on overall team performance (e.g. Owens and
Hekman 2016), the inclusion of humility in future
team research appears critical. Team scholars may
thus draw on our review to generate new prescriptions
regarding the drivers of team effectiveness in contem-
porary workplaces that increasingly lack hierarchical
command structures, direct controls and clearly de-
lineated roles. Scholars may also theorize and test
humility as a missing piece in understanding the in-
fluence of personality on team effectiveness, which
has thus far proved challenging to ascertain. In sum,
our review supports humility as productive yet over-
looked in organizations. Organizational researchers
studying multiple levels of analysis will benefit from
thoroughly understanding the humility construct. We
begin by addressing our first research question.
What is humility?
It is important to provide grounding on ‘what humility
is’ before analysing its components. In the organi-
zational literature, Ou et al. (2014, p. 37) defined
humility as a ‘relatively stable trait that is grounded
in a self-view that something greater than the self ex-
ists’). This quotation captures an essence that we find
present within many of the proposed scholarly def-
initions and elements emergent in our review below.
For example, humble individuals do not have strong
needs to self-enhance or to dominate others (Peterson
and Seligman 2004). Humble individuals understand
their own strengths and limitations accurately (e.g.
Tangney 2000) and possess an openness that appre-
ciates the views and contributions of others (e.g.
Owens and Hekman 2012). Humble individuals are
not self-deprecating; they recognize their strengths,
admit their mistakes and weaknesses (see Exline and
Geyer 2004), and assume their role with others in a
broader community (e.g. Nielsen et al. 2010).
Humility is sometimes used synonymously with
modesty or is defined as the opposite of arrogance or
narcissism; however, the relevant research is unclear.
Woodcock (2008) defined modesty as the quality of
being unassuming or otherwise having a moderate
estimation of oneself. In displaying modesty, people
under-represent their own positive traits, contribu-
tions and expectations (Cialdini and de Nicholas
1989). Such modesty would not equate to humility, as
defined by humility scholars, because humble persons
hold a balanced perspective that acknowledges both
strengths and limitations and does not seek to under-
or over-represent the self (Morris et al. 2005). Ad-
ditionally, as Tangney (2000) and others (e.g. Zhang
et al. 2017) have noted, a lack of arrogance or nar-
cissism does not equate to the presence of humility.
Narcissists display patterns of grandiosity, a strong
need for admiration and a lack of empathy (American
Psychiatric Association 2013). However, the opposite
of narcissism does not necessarily include a view
that something greater than the self exists.
Theories of positive leadership, such as authentic
and servant leadership, suggest that leaders are de-
scribed as humble. We briefly review some conceptual
differences among authentic leaders, servant leaders
and humble leaders to help clarify the content domain
of humility. Servant leaders (Greenleaf 1977) convert
their followers into leaders, prioritize the needs of
their followers, and are particularly concerned about
followers with less power or greater need for help
(Bass and Bass 2008). However, humble leaders do
not necessarily place the needs of others ahead of
themselves (Nielsen et al. 2010, 2014). Such leaders
are supportive of followers, but are ‘more likely to
adopt a stance of egalitarianism rather than superior-
ity or servility in their communications with others’
(Morris et al. 2005, p. 1341). Authentic leaders have
been characterized as having integrity and a profound
sense of self-awareness of their strengths, knowledge
and morals (Avolio and Gardner 2005), yet this view
does not necessarily indicate a proper perspective
of the self or suggest a model for growth. Authen-
tic leadership emphasizes values and self-expression,
whereas humble leadership focuses on the leader’s
transcendent self-view that something greater than
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Wiley & Sons Ltd.
4R. Nielsen and J.A. Marrone
the self exists (Ou et al. 2014; Rego et al. 2017b),
which includes not only self-awareness, but also an
appreciation of others and an openness to feedback
and growth. Despite some overlaps, other positive
leadership theories ‘focus only on limited aspects of
humility’ (Ou et al. 2014, p. 37).
Finally, we highlight the Honesty–Humility factor
(H–H) of the HEXACO personality inventory
(Ashton and Lee 2005; Lee and Ashton 2004) as
distinct from humility. H–H has four facets: Sincerity,
Fairness, Greed Avoidance and Modesty. The latter
two facets are used in some studies to measure
humility. However, others have criticized H–H
because it is limited in its focus on modesty (Davis
et al. 2011). Owens et al. (2013) have contended that
H–H is related to, but distinct from, humility and
have found that it is only moderately correlated with
their assessment of humility. As they have noted,
H–H does not capture key elements of humility, such
as willingness to view oneself accurately, teachability
and appreciation of others. We thus excluded studies
examining humility solely through H–H.
Theorized key components of humility: synthesizing
prior work
Next, from our analysis, we observe a particular set
of theorized components consistently included in the
humility concept. For a visual representation, see
Figure 1.
The first component to emerge is ‘accurate self-
awareness’, or the willingness to see oneself ac-
curately (e.g. Davis et al. 2011). This component
encompasses ‘an acceptance/appreciation of one’s
limitations’ (e.g. Tangney 2000). Humble individu-
als have realistic views of themselves and their capa-
bilities (Nielsen et al. 2010) and admit their mis-
takes and limitations (Owens and Hekman 2012).
All 11 (100%) of the reviewed works from psy-
chology and organizational research include the
self-awareness/acceptance component as part of
Two other components emerge consistently: ‘an
appreciation of others and their strengths and con-
tributions’ and ‘openness to feedback/teachability’
(five and six times, or 45% and 55%, respectively).
Both components demonstrate the humble individ-
ual’s willingness to acknowledge and accept the views
and feedback of others. Humble individuals have an
open-minded attitude and a desire to learn from and
through others (e.g. Owens et al. 2013). In addition,
they can acknowledge and appreciate the strengths
and contributions of others without experiencing ego
threat in ways less humble individuals may (Owens
and Hekman 2012; Tangney 2000).
Finally, and perhaps most controversially, a
fourth component capturing ‘transcendence/larger
perspective’ is suggested in six of the 11 works
(55%). However, these works do not all agree on what
transcendence is or whether it serves as an essen-
tial requirement of humility. Historically and philo-
sophically, the meaning of transcendence is rooted
in awe-inspiring beliefs in God and/or nature. How-
ever, as humility research has evolved, transcendence
has been discussed by some organizational and psy-
chology scholars as more generally experiencing a
connection to some larger perspective. Morris et al.
(2005, p. 1331) have noted this shift and argued that
humble individuals have an ‘understanding of the
small role that one plays in a vast universe’. Ou et al.
(2014) have described the notion of the transcendent
self-concept as including beliefs that some things in
the world are greater than oneself and that some things
are not under one’s control.
Concerns with transcendence as a separate com-
ponent of humility, however, lie in the divergence
across definitions and disagreement over its rele-
vance. In discussing transcendence, Owens et al.
(2013, p. 1519) noted that they intentionally differ-
entiated their conceptualization of humility from the
‘more intrapersonal, philosophical approaches to hu-
mility’ and did not include transcendence as a core
theorized component. The authors provided com-
pelling evidence and rationale that humility, particu-
larly in social and organizational contexts, is interper-
sonal and relational, thus rendering an intracognitive
aspect such as transcendence as less relevant to the
expression of humility.
Our review of the theorized components leads us
to propose the following components constituting the
conceptual core of humility: a willingness to see one-
self accurately; an appreciation of others; and teach-
ability. These components have found strong consen-
sus across scholars in disparate fields because they
indicate a proper perspective of oneself and the recog-
nition and appreciation of knowledge and guidance
beyond the self (Owens and Hekman 2012). Further-
more, this conceptual core has sufficient breadth and
flexibility to encompass intra- and interpersonal as-
pects of humility, even though transcendence is not
explicitly included, as these components can be (and
have been in prior humility research) used to capture
both a humble person’s internal attitude and his/her
relational approach, depending on the frame. For
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Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Humility 5
Figure 1. Analysis of the theorized components of humility [Colour figure can be viewed at]
Notes: Includes recognition of limitations/admitting one’s mistakes; ࢳࢳ Low self-focus has generated mixed findings (e.g. it was proposed
but then removed owing to poor loadings and high cross-loadings in Owens (2009)); *These authors used Hill and colleagues’ expanded
36-item measure (Bollinger 2010; Bollinger et al. 2006) and the earlier 21-item version of the same scale and only the former is included in
Figure 1 to avoid double-counting; **See their Appendix B for details on all of Ou et al.’s (2014) components, including self-transcendent
pursuit; ***We used their definition, adapted from Solomon (1999, pp. 394–395), to identify their theorized components; #We did not include
Oc et al.’s (2015) study, given its intentional goal of discovering humility components unique to Singapore.
example, accurate self-knowledge can be manifested
intrapersonally as an internal willingness and means
for self-improvement as well as interpersonally as a
way of relating to others (see Argandona 2015). In
contrast, other components appear isolated or nar-
rowly focused or reflect the ‘lack of’ elements that,
as noted previously, may be inappropriate (Tangney
2000). As such, these other components are less fre-
quently relied on by humility scholars, especially
those studying organizational settings.
Exploring deeper: expressed and experienced
Understanding humility also requires a considera-
tion of the distinction between the ‘expressed’ or
relational attributes of humility and the ‘internal’
or ‘experienced’ attributes of humility (see also
Argandona 2015; Davis et al. 2011; Ou et al. 2014;
Owens et al. 2013). For instance, Tangney’s (2000)
seminal research on humility describes ways in which
one experiences humility. Others have explicitly
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Wiley & Sons Ltd.
6R. Nielsen and J.A. Marrone
focused on humble behaviours or attributions in so-
cial contexts, emphasizing the relational and inter-
personal aspects of humility. For instance, Owens
et al. (2013, p. 1518) defined ‘expressed humility’
as ‘an interpersonal characteristic that emerges in so-
cial contexts that connotes (a) a manifested willing-
ness to view oneself accurately, (b) a displayed ap-
preciation of others’ strengths and contributions, and
(c) teachability’. Each component was framed in
terms of observable and outward manifestations of
humility. Additionally, ‘relational humility’ was de-
fined by Davis et al. (2011, p. 226) as ‘an observer’s
judgment that a target person (a) is interpersonally
other-oriented rather than self-focused, marked by a
lack of superiority; and (b) has an accurate view of
self - not too inflated or too low’. Others have
explicitly incorporated both ‘experienced’ and ‘ex-
pressed’ attributes with commensurate emphasis (e.g.
Jankowski et al. 2013; Ou et al. 2014). We share
the sentiments of Argandona (2015), Jankowski
et al. (2013) and others who identified humility as
self/individual and other/relational, involving an in-
ternal self-regulating capacity that fosters prosocial
relating that results in intrapersonal and interpersonal
Although numerous definitions of humility exist, our
review and analysis demonstrate that particular com-
ponents have been theorized with moderate to high
levels of frequency and consistency. Differences in
scholars’ relative emphasis on the ‘expressed’ or ‘ex-
perienced’ attributes of humility may account for
some variance across definitions, but we present three
components as forming the conceptual core of hu-
mility and as sufficiently reflecting intrapersonal and
interpersonal aspects.
How is humility being measured?
Regarding our second research question, measuring
humility has proved challenging. This difficulty is not
attributable to a lack of effort in developing measure-
ment instruments. In fact, humility has been mea-
sured through other-reports, self-reports, implicit as-
sociation tests (IATs) and multi-method approaches.
We highlight these primary approaches below, pro-
viding examples from key studies implementing and
assessing the efficacy of the respective measurements.
Organizational scholars’ awareness of accurate
measurement is critical to clarify the unique predic-
tive validity of humility for organizational outcomes.
The predictive validity of other-reports is equal to or
greater than that of self-reports, and the combined
judgement of two acquaintances has been proven to
outperform self-reports in terms of predictive validity
(Kolar et al. 1996). This method is most often used
when studying the impacts of leader humility and
relational outcomes associated with humility, such
as facilitating social bonds and granting forgiveness
(e.g. Davis et al. 2011, 2013). This approach may
be uniquely appropriate for exploring the expressed
humility attributes described earlier. We discuss three
prominent other-reports.
First, Davis et al. (2010, 2011) developed theoreti-
cal support for their relational humility scale (RHS).
After exploratory factor analysis, the scale contained
three main factors: global humility; superiority (re-
verse coded); and accurate view of self. Cronbach’s
alphas for the respective factors were 0.92, 0.87 and
0.82, and the alpha value for the full scale was 0.89
(see study 1). Subsequent research included modesty
as an additional factor with adequate fit indices (Davis
et al. 2016).
Second, Owens (2009) and Owens et al. (2013)
established and validated a scale frequently used in
management studies. After initially exploring both
a self-report and an other-report, Owens’ (2009) re-
search shifted towards the other-report due to its bet-
ter test–retest reliability. The other-report scale has
three key components with nine items in total: will-
ingness to view oneself accurately; appreciation of
others’ strengths; and teachability (α=0.94 for the
full scale).
Finally, Ou et al. (2014) created an other-report
measure in conjunction with the previous other-report
from Owens and colleagues described above. The
combined measure had 19 items in total, nine from
Owens et al. (2013) and ten newly created items
(see Owens et al. 2013, Appendix B). These addi-
tional items added three factors: low self-focus; self-
transcendent pursuits; and transcendent self-concept
(α=0.81, 0.75 and 0.77, respectively, and 0.88 for
the comprehensive scale).
Self-reports may provide opportunities to explore
the internal experienced elements of humility. The
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Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Humility 7
primary critique of self-reports, however, is that
the results are susceptible to self-enhancement
(Asendorpf and Ostendorf 1998), and in the case of
humility, the reverse is possible (i.e. a person with
low humility could self-enhance, and a person with
high humility could report low humility) (Davis et al.
2010). Morris and colleagues (2005) have also sug-
gested that relying solely on a self-report measure is
inadequate in assessing humility. Despite increasing
critiques and debate, the self-report has been a fre-
quent method of measurement, particularly in disser-
tations and pilot studies. Evidence of underreporting
bias has not emerged in psychological studies to date
(Davis et al. 2016), though some evidence of self-
enhancement reporting bias has emerged in organi-
zational research (e.g. Rego et al. 2017b). Scholars
examining emotional well-being and pro-social ten-
dencies of humble persons have most frequently re-
lied on self-report measures, often employing multi-
ple self-report scales, with some convergent findings
emerging across scales (e.g. Exline and Hill 2012).
We discuss three frequently used self-reports.
At least four studies have used Bollinger and
colleagues’ humility self-report (Bollinger 2010;
Bollinger et al. 2006; Kopp 2005), an extension of
an earlier 21-item self-report measure created by Hill
et al. (2003). Bollinger’s team collected data from 566
undergraduates to create the expanded 36-item mea-
sure comprising five factors: worldview (nine items;
α=0.80); recognition of limitations (11 items; α=
0.74); low self-focus (nine items; α=0.67); personal
finiteness (three items; α=0.68); and accurate self-
assessment (four items; α=0.57 (Bollinger 2010).
The original and expanded scales yielded consistent
findings in Exline and Hill’s (2012) study of humil-
ity and generosity. Jankowski et al. (2013), however,
found that the 36-item measure did not fit their study’s
data. Further construct validation using confirmatory
factor analysis (CFA) yielded a shortened 18-item
Rowatt et al. (2006) developed a seven-item self-
report based on the semantic differentials of humility.
The scale was developed as part of their overall
research goal of creating an IAT of humility (de-
scribed below). The end labels to the self-report scale
are humble/arrogant, modest/immodest, respectful/
disrespectful, egotistical/not self-centred, conceited/
not conceited, intolerant/tolerant and closed-minded/
open-minded. They administered the scale to 135 un-
dergraduate participants (α=0.72). In a later study
(Peters et al. 2011), the self-report yielded similar
results (α=0.75 based on 109 college students).
Finally, subsets of the 10-item Modesty–Humility
(MH) subscale of the Values in Action Inventory of
Strengths survey (Peterson and Seligman 2004) have
been used in religious studies. However, the inclusion
of modesty has been criticized by those seeking to iso-
late the humility concept. Furthermore, Davis et al.’s
(2010, p. 245) critique noted that ‘[T]he MH lacks
primary evidence of construct validity, though some
evidence is found in Rowatt et al. (2006)’. Rowatt and
colleagues tested the measure on 55 undergraduates
and found an alpha of 0.84 for the scale. This measure
exhibited convergent findings with the IAT implicit
measure discussed below (LaBouff et al. 2012).
An IAT is a computerized measure of the degree to
which a person automatically associates two target
concepts (Greenwald et al. 1998). In a meta-analysis
of IAT studies, Greenwald et al. (2009) concluded
that the incremental validity of IAT measures was
high compared with that of self-reports for socially
sensitive topics, and they recommended the joint use
of IATs and self-reports to predict behaviour.
Rowatt et al. (2006) developed an IAT to mea-
sure humility versus arrogance. After undergraduates
completed the Humility IAT, the authors found strong
reliability at time period one (α=0.87) and two weeks
later at time period two (α=0.89). Findings suggest
that this IAT is equivalent to or better than self-reports
in predicting the impact of humility on pro-social
helpfulness (e.g. LaBouff et al. 2012), and it yields
convergent findings with other-reports for predicting
academic performance (Owens et al. 2013; Rowatt
et al. 2006).
Multi-method approaches
As strategies for measuring humility increase, re-
searchers often use more than one measurement
method in a single paper. For example, Ou et al.
(2014) employed other-reports to assess CEO humil-
ity and then interviewed the same 51 CEOs. Over-
all moderate agreement was found between the two
approaches (r=0.28; p<0.05), except between
the other-reports and the interviewer coding of low
CEO humility: ‘CEOs with low humility may be
more inclined to feign humility in their answers to
interviewers’ (Ou et al. 2014, p. 59). As another ex-
ample, LaBouff et al. (2012) employed both an im-
plicit measure and two self-report measures of hu-
mility and found that humble people are more helpful
C2018 The Authors. International Journal of Management Reviews published by British Academy of Management and John
Wiley & Sons Ltd.
8R. Nielsen and J.A. Marrone
Table 1. Summary of published measurement approaches
Measure description: Citation
Frequency count
(%)aArea used most often
Used most often when examining
the following
Owens et al. (2013) or Ou et al. (2014) 11 (34%) Organizational research Learning and performance outcomes
Leader humility outcomes for
followers, teams and organizations
Davis et al. (2011) (RHS) 3 (9%) Psychology Pro-social/relational outcomes
Bollinger et al. (2006); Bollinger (2010) or
Hill et al. (2003)
7 (22%) Psychology Pro-social/relational outcomes
Emotional well-being outcomes
Peterson and Seligman (2004) (MH) 7 (22%) Religion Antecedents to humility
Emotional well-being outcomes
Rowatt et al. (2006) (seven-item semantic) 4 (13%) Psychology Pro-social/relational outcomes
Rowatt et al. (2006) 3 (9%) Psychology Pro-social/relational outcomes
Learning and performance outcomes
Variousb4 (13%) Psychology Varied
Notes:aThe percentage is out of 32 empirical papers examining humility and is rounded to the nearest whole number. Five empirical
papers used multiple and distinct measures of humility when testing hypotheses; bThis includes Zawadzka and Zalewska’s (2013) self-report
scale; Dwiwardani et al.s (2014) self-report scale; Rego et al.s (2016) self- and other-report scales; and Rowatt et al.s (2002) self- versus
other-ratings on religious items.
than less humble people. They concluded that ‘im-
plicit and explicit measurement strategies in humility
may inform and complement each other rather than
overlap’ (LaBouff et al. 2012, pp. 23, 25).
Calls for valid and reliable measures of humility
(Morris et al. 2005; Nielsen et al. 2010) have been
heeded. Most recently, particularly in the organiza-
tional domain, other-reports have been used to assess
humility (e.g. Davis et al. 2011; Ou et al. 2014, 2015;
Owens et al. 2013). This measurement strategy has
the primary benefits of mitigating ‘self-enhancement’
or ‘modesty-effect’ biases in self-report measures and
is conceptually aligned with assessing the expressed,
interpersonal aspects of humility that scholars are
finding increasingly salient in organizational settings.
Self-reports are often employed in dissertations (e.g.
Bollinger 2010) and published studies examining the
emotional experiences of humble persons. Addition-
ally, Rowatt et al.s (2006) humility IAT has been
combined with other methods, and such combinations
may increase based on LaBouff et al.s (2012) find-
ing that the Humility IAT complements self-reports.
We expect growth in multi-method approaches as
the focus on other-reports and efforts to combine
measurement methods continue to flourish. Further-
more, following advancements in related fields (e.g.
relational leadership; Uhl-Bien 2006), it would not
be surprising if future humility studies incorporated
measurement techniques that seek to capture directly
the social processes creating and embedding hu-
mility (discussed more in future research sections).
These techniques could include conversation anal-
ysis, ethnography interviewing observation, linguis-
tic analyses and others (Fairhurst and Putnam 2004;
Uhl-Bien 2006).
Table 1 summarizes the frequency of measurement
approaches and indicates the literature domains and
categories of outcomes most commonly associated
with each measure. These outcome categories are de-
scribed in the next section.
Empirical findings on humility: can
findings be organized into meaningful
categories relevant to organizations?
We now examine our third research question. Through
a review and synthesis of empirical findings, we of-
fer an organizing framework that is parsimonious,
relevant to organizations and easily accessible to
organizational scholars and practitioners alike. We
begin with an overview of the framework and fol-
low up with a detailed account of primary empirical
C2018 The Authors. International Journal of Management Reviews published by British Academy of Management and John
Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Humility 9
Spiritual support2
Leader Apology1
Empowering leadership1
Balanced processing1
Employee job satisfaction1
Team learning orientation1
Team shared leadership1
Collective humility1
Collective promotion focus culture1
Team PsyCap1
Team task allocation1
TMT integration1
(-) TMT vertical pay disparity1
Ambidextrous strategic orientation1
Socialized charisma1,2
Self outcomes:
Pro-social and relational:
Social relationship bonding1,2
Group status/acceptance1
Social justice commitment2
Emotional well-being:
(-) Depressive symptoms2
(-) Depressed affect2
Subjective well-being2
Self-reported health2
Positive emotions2
Learning and performance:
Academic performance1,3
Contextual performance1
Perceived leader effectiveness1
Perceived transformational leadership1
Follower outcomes:
Engagement 1
Intentions to turnover 1
Psychological freedom4
Team outcomes:
TMT integration1
Team performance1
Organizational outcomes:
Firm performance1
Firm innovation1,2
Environmental conditions4
Social Pressure2
TMT faultlines1
Team proactive behavior1
Team performance capability1
Strength of leader expressed humiltiiy1
Leader traits4
Leader narcissism1,2
Spiritual transcendence2
Figure 2. Summary illustration of empirical findings
Notes: Humility was measured via 1Other-report; 2Self-report; 3Implicit Association Test; and 4Qualitative interview data. Variables in
italics indicate that leader humility was assessed.
The great majority of studies to date have examined
outcomes of humility. Notably, given our third re-
search question, we find that these outcomes reside
at multiple levels inherent to organizations – self,
follower, team and organizational. The largest num-
ber of outcomes examined includes self-related out-
comes, which can be further organized into three
categories: (1) pro-social and relational variables;
(2) emotional well-being; and (3) learning and per-
formance outcomes. Each of these categories is also
relevant for achieving organizational goals and ob-
jectives. First, pro-social/relational variables include
the positive ways in which humility impacts one’s
relationships with peers and followers. These rela-
tional elements enable and promote fruitful social
exchanges and interactions at work that are necessary
for organizational viability and success. Second, pos-
itive emotional well-being, as evidenced by lower de-
pressive symptoms, greater self-reported health and
increased positive emotions, is also associated with
humility and should underlie sustained employee con-
tributions through job satisfaction, empowerment,
commitment and resilience. Third, positive learning
and performance outcomes are demonstrated in aca-
demic and organizational settings. These outcomes
include higher course grades, enhanced contributions
to teams and greater perceptions of leadership ef-
fectiveness. Beyond self-related outcomes, positive
outcomes for followers, teams and organizations re-
sult from leader humility. These outcomes include
employee engagement, retention and psychological
engagement, team integration and performance, and
firm performance and innovation. Below, we detail
the empirical findings regarding self, follower, team
and organizational outcomes. Mediating and moder-
ating variables in the relationships between humil-
ity and outcomes are discussed throughout as appro-
priate. We end by discussing the antecedents of
humility. For a visual representation of empirical
relationships, see Figure 2.
Self outcomes: pro-social and relational outcomes
Our first category of self-related outcomes reveals
that humility strengthens social relationships through
helpfulness, social bonding, forgiveness and social
justice commitment. These effects may be partly due
C2018 The Authors. International Journal of Management Reviews published by British Academy of Management and John
Wiley & Sons Ltd.
10 R. Nielsen and J.A. Marrone
to the humble person’s collective and relational ori-
entation (Nielsen et al. 2010). Those with humility
may have a self-view of interdependence with others
and feel deeply motivated to contribute to the suc-
cess of their relationships and to fulfil their roles as
productive and helpful relationship partners. Re-
search has thus found that humble individuals are
more generous and helpful than non-humble individ-
uals, and that they are more likely to be regarded by
others as cooperative and worthy of forgiveness. This
robust outcome category has been assessed across
multiple measurements and disciplines.
Helpfulness and generosity. Humble people are
more helpful than less humble people, even when re-
searchers control for personality and impression man-
agement (LaBouff et al. 2012). For example, similar
findings across multiple self-report measures and IAT
indicated that humble students volunteered signifi-
cantly more time to help a fellow student than students
demonstrating less humility. Notably, in ‘altruistic’
conditions (with low social pressure to volunteer),
this effect was strong. However, in the high social
pressure condition, this effect was attenuated, and the
results suggested no significant differences in the ex-
tent of volunteering between humble and non-humble
respondents. Additionally, humility predicts generos-
ity. Using the 21-item and 36-item self-report mea-
sures, Exline and Hill (2012) conducted three stud-
ies. Humility predicted the following indicators of
generosity: larger charitable donations; a ‘pay it for-
ward’ attitude in giving more money to anonymous
future study participants; and greater self-reported
motives of kindness towards others that extended
beyond close friends to enemies and strangers. These
findings may have utility for broader organizational
studies, for example, in furthering our understand-
ing of employee organizational citizenship behaviour
(OCB; Organ et al. 2006).
Social relationship bonding and group status/
acceptance. Those who are humble enjoy bond-
ing with and acceptance by others in interpersonal
settings. For instance, Peters et al. (2011) used the
semantic differential scale and found that humility
was positively related to higher social relationship
quality, and Davis et al. (2013) found that humility
(measured via their RHS scale) strengthened social
bonds and positively predicted status and acceptance
in groups. These findings aligned with those of Owens
et al. (2013), who examined the other-reported hu-
mility of undergraduate team members working on
real team projects. These findings may extend un-
derstanding of positive team-member exchange rela-
tionships in organizations (TMX; Seers 1989), and
they demonstrate the utility of the positive social cap-
ital generated by humble team members. The find-
ings are particularly interesting when contrasted with
recent research on leaders who work to create divi-
sions in social bonds. Case and Maner (2014) found
that dominance-motivated leaders created divisions
among subordinates when they perceived their power
as being threatened by highly-skilled subordinates.
We posit that humble leaders are not threatened in
these ways and, instead, work to incorporate sugges-
tions from subordinates and strengthen social rela-
tions among them.
Forgiveness. The finding that humility fosters
forgiveness has emerged in at least four studies and
across self-reports, other-reports and IAT measures
of humility. In religion, Powers et al. (2007) found
that self-reported humility predicted self-reported
tendencies to forgive a transgressor. Implicit humility
did not serve as a predictor, but it was associated with
an individual’s attitudes towards forgiveness more
generally. These authors also found that people with
high humility scores and high spiritual transcendence
scores were most likely to self-report that they might
forgive someone. Additionally, self-reported humble
individuals were more likely to recall or envision
themselves committing offences similar to those
committed by others and thus presented higher self-
reported motivation to forgive transgressors (Exline
et al. 2008). Not surprisingly, using self-ratings on
the RHS scale and implicitly priming humility, Van
Tongeren et al. (2016) found that humility reduced
aggressive intentions and behaviours towards reli-
gious out-group members who criticized people’s
religious convictions. The authors theorized that
humility may allow individuals to view out-groups
positively and empathically. Finally, seeing an
individual as humble facilitates forgiveness of that
individual (Davis et al. 2011). Forgiveness has been
found to be a salient leader attribute and to positively
influence organizational performance in several
studies (Cameron 2007). Moreover, a growing body
of research has explored the importance of for-
giveness in organizations (Fehr and Gelfand 2012).
Furthermore, if humility plays a corrective role in
reducing negative feelings and intentions towards
out-group members, this could have significant im-
plications for understanding intergroup relationships
at work.
C2018 The Authors. International Journal of Management Reviews published by British Academy of Management and John
Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Humility 11
Social justice commitment. Using a self-report mea-
sure based on Bollinger et al.s (2006) measure,
Jankowski et al. (2013) found that humility mediated
the relationship between increased forgiveness and in-
creased social justice commitment. Interestingly, the
impact of humility on social justice commitment was
stronger for males than for females. These results ex-
tend the prosocial impacts of humility beyond peer-
to-peer relationships to a concern for systemic justice.
Self outcomes: emotional well-being
This second category of self-related outcomes
suggests that humility predicts well-being. Some
theorize that the views held by humble individuals
(e.g. seeing strengths alongside weaknesses, not
placing oneself in a low-status role, and accepting
knowledge/help from others) result in the confidence,
resilience and resources needed for sustained positive
self-adjustment in life (e.g. Exline 2012; Oyer 2011).
Studies in this category most frequently rely on
self-report measures, some of which have not been
validated in previous studies or have not isolated
the humility concept. Thus, this area is rife with
opportunities to incorporate additional measurement
approaches. The primary outcomes are decreased
depressive symptoms, greater subjective well-being
and positive emotions.
Depressive symptoms and depressed affect. Two
studies in religion have found that humility lessens
depressive symptoms and affect. Krause (2014) found
that humility reduced the impact of negative church
interactions on depressive symptoms. Krause and
Hayward (2012) found that humility reduced the im-
pact of lifetime trauma on depressed affect. In both
studies, the researchers used items from Peterson and
Seligman’s (2004) MH scale to measure humility.
Given the inclusion of modesty in the MH scale, it is
important to note that Jankowski et al. (2013), who
used Bollinger et al.s (2006) self-report measure of
humility, also found that humility significantly pre-
dicted decreased depressive symptoms.
Subjective well-being and self-reported health.
Subjective well-being was assessed by Zawadzka and
Zalewska (2013, p. 445), who found that ‘humility
positively correlates with subjective well-being and
may be its preferred predictor’. They created a
49-item humility self-report measure (α=0.88).
More recently, Krause et al. (2016) analysed the
Landmark Spirituality and Health Survey data for
3010 US adults and found that self-reported humil-
ity (measured via three items from Bollinger et al.’s
(2006) scale) buffered the otherwise adverse effects
of stressful life events on well-being. That is, humble
individuals reported higher levels of happiness and
life satisfaction and lower levels of depressed affect
and anxiety disorders when facing stressful events
than less humble individuals. This finding suggests
that the humblest employees are likely to be the most
resilient at work in times of economic uncertainty,
recession or organizational layoffs. Likewise, longi-
tudinal studies by Krause (2010, 2012) using a subset
of MH items found that humility positively predicted
self-reported health.
Positive emotions. Finally, Exline (2012) found that
humility was a strong predictor of positive responses
to receiving kindness and suggested that humble per-
sons do not regard such a receiving role adversely.
Based on Bollinger and colleagues’ self-report mea-
sure, humility was associated with more positive emo-
tions (e.g. love, gratitude) and less negative emotional
responses (e.g. mistrust, shame/weakness) ‘when re-
flecting on an experience of receiving kindness’
(Exline 2012, p. 45). These findings may be impor-
tant for understanding the effects of unsolicited assis-
tance or positive feedback on subsequent employee
attitudes and performance.
Self outcomes: learning and performance outcomes
The third category of self-related outcomes includes
the impacts of humility on individual learning and
performance. We speculate that these outcomes stem
from a desire for accurate self-awareness, openness
to feedback and incorporation of the contributions
of others. Self-awareness allows individuals to maxi-
mize performance through enabling a person to lever-
age strengths and compensate for weaknesses (Owens
et al. 2013), while openness to novel ways of think-
ing and alternative ideas is associated with learning in
organizational settings (Owens and Hekman 2012).
Academic and contextual performance. Rowatt
et al. (2006) found implicit humility to be positively
correlated with higher coursework grades. Subse-
quently, Owens et al. (2013) found that other-reported
humility was a better predictor of students’ test and
assignment scores and contributions to classroom
team projects (referred to as contextual performance)
than general mental ability, conscientiousness or
self-efficacy. Moreover, humility had a compensating
C2018 The Authors. International Journal of Management Reviews published by British Academy of Management and John
Wiley & Sons Ltd.
12 R. Nielsen and J.A. Marrone
effect on academic performance for students with
lower general mental ability. Humble individuals
enjoy learning benefits in academic settings that
should extend to organizational life.
Perceived leader effectiveness and perceived transfor-
mational leadership. At least two empirical stud-
ies have suggested that humble leaders in organi-
zations also experience positive outcomes, namely
through enjoying greater perceptions of leader effec-
tiveness and transformational qualities by their fol-
lowers. First, Rego et al. (2016) found that humble
leaders were perceived as positively impacting their
work team’s effectiveness. Leader humility was as-
sessed through a 360-degree instrument that included
self- and other-reports of items taken from Dennis
and Bocarnea (2005) and Park et al. (2004) and of
items generated by the authors. The effects were me-
diated through the inclusive and balanced qualities
of the humble leader’s decision-making (termed ‘bal-
anced processing’ by the authors), which includes
being open to criticism and contrary ideas and asking
for others’ opinions before making decisions. This
notion regarding openness is also supported by the
findings from Owens and Hekman’s (2012) quali-
tative study: organizational leaders whose follow-
ers rated them as strongly demonstrating personal
humility were also rated highly on behaviours that
included a willingness to consider ideas contrary to
their own. Second, Basford et al.s (2014) study of
US workers found that humble leaders, measured via
Owens’ (2009) other-report, were perceived by fol-
lowers as transformational leaders. In this study, hu-
mility played a mediating role, such that, when leaders
sincerely apologized to followers, they were assessed
by followers as humble, which in turn facilitated per-
ceptions of transformational leadership qualities.
Not illustrated in Figure 2 (for simplicity), Owens
et al. (2015) found that narcissistic leaders whose fol-
lowers rated them as having high levels of humility
were perceived as more effective by those follow-
ers. Such leaders also had more-engaged and higher-
performing followers than narcissistic leaders with
low humility. This study is intriguing because it ex-
plored the paradoxical notion of narcissistic leaders
with humility.
Follower outcomes
We now shift to discussing the outcomes for followers
of humble leaders. Followers led by humble leaders
experience at least three primary outcomes at work:
they are more engaged (mediated via stronger team
learning orientation), are less likely to leave the or-
ganization (mediated via higher employee job sat-
isfaction) and enjoy higher psychological freedom
than followers of non-humble leaders. Collectively,
these studies have been conducted primarily in or-
ganizational settings and have used longitudinal de-
signs. Particularly in studies of leader humility, schol-
ars have begun proposing and testing for mediation
and moderation. We highlight underlying mediating
mechanisms and moderating conditions where appro-
priate. Unless otherwise noted, all studies have mea-
sured leader humility via other-reports established by
Owens or by Ou and their respective colleagues.
First, in a quantitative study of healthcare pro-
fessionals, Owens et al. (2013) found that hum-
ble leader behaviours fostered employee engagement
through facilitating stronger team learning goal ori-
entation in employees (i.e. a climate focused on learn-
ing and development). Leader humility also pro-
moted higher job satisfaction in employees, which
was then negatively related to voluntary employee
turnover, after controlling for demographic differ-
ences. These authors theorized that the tendency
of humble leaders to send clear signals validat-
ing and accepting employees’ learning and personal
development processes fosters trust and openness,
which promote a learning goal orientation (Owens
et al. 2013).
Second, Ou et al.s (2016) study of 313 top ex-
ecutives supports the links to turnover and suggests
an important moderating influence. The researchers
found that companies with humble top executives
tend to have higher job satisfaction for middle man-
agers, who were therefore less likely to leave their
organizations. These relationships existed only when
TMT (top management team) faultlines, which create
stressful rifts that challenge communication and coor-
dination across team members, were low. When high,
faultlines significantly impeded the humble leader’s
otherwise positive influence on member satisfaction
and retention. The authors theorized that faultlines
create a demanding and frustrating context that ‘di-
verts MMs’ [middle managers’] attention from lead-
ers’ benevolent qualities, reduces their preference
for such leadership, and stigmatizes such leaders’
(Ou et al. 2016, p. 10). This context may lead mid-
dle managers to attribute the team’s challenges to
leader incompetence, thereby devaluing the positive
aspects of their leader’s humility and producing a de-
sire for leaders whom they deem more directive and
C2018 The Authors. International Journal of Management Reviews published by British Academy of Management and John
Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Humility 13
Finally, qualitative data from Owens and Hekman
(2012, p. 802) indicate that humble leaders model
growth to followers; that is, ‘humble leaders were re-
ported as making outwardly explicit the step-by-step
process of personal development’. The outcomes of
these behaviours for followers resulted in followers
feeling validated in their own development efforts.
Specifically, this situation entailed psychological
freedom for both the leader and the followers.
Followers of humble leaders were also accepting of
unpredictability, open to new information, and will-
ing to take a trial-and-error approach to experiments
at work. Evidence was also found for the moderating
roles of contextual variables: high-pressure envi-
ronments and strongly hierarchical organizational
structures/cultures weakened the above relationships,
whereas organizational cultures that emphasize learn-
ing and collaboration strengthened the ties between
leader displays of humility and the resultant follower
outcomes. Leader traits (namely, competence and sin-
cerity) also had this enhancement effect. Thus, leader
humility results in productive outcomes for followers,
and these leaders may be most effective and most
appreciated in open, collaborative and low-stress
Team outcomes
This section reviews the outcomes for teams that are
led by humble leaders. Two primary team-level out-
comes have been examined to date: team integration
(mediated via empowering leadership) and team per-
formance (mediated via shared leadership, collective
humility and collective promotion focus). First, team
integration reflects the team’s dynamics and ‘includes
collaborative behavior, information sharing, and joint
decision making . . . , as well as shared vision . . . ’
(Ou et al. 2015, p. 6). Team integration also en-
hances more distal outcomes, such as engagement
and firm performance. Ou et al. (2014) studied 63
CEOs and 328 TMT members in Chinese companies
and found that CEO humility is positively and directly
related to CEO empowering leadership and indirectly
related to TMT integration. Through interviews, the
authors also found that humble leaders, compared
with less humble CEOs, are more likely to see more
strengths in their TMT and to empower TMT mem-
bers to make decisions collectively.
Second, in a sample of 62 professional Taiwanese
work teams, Chiu et al. (2016) found that hum-
ble team leaders fostered team performance through
the enhancement of team shared leadership. The
authors provide compelling evidence that humble
leaders, by virtue of modelling teachability and
open-mindedness, encourage the team’s members to
listen to one another and to accept one another’s
attempts to claim leadership. Furthermore, humble
leaders recognize and openly acknowledge their own
limitations, and this tendency underscores and re-
inforces the contributions and leadership capabili-
ties of team members. Notably, the indirect effect
through enhanced shared leadership was signifi-
cant only when a team’s proactive personality and
performance capability were also high, again sug-
gesting that certain supportive external conditions
may be critical for realizing the potential of leader
Third, examining team performance in a study
of 84 laboratory and 77 organizational field teams,
Owens and Hekman (2016) observed that leader hu-
mility influenced the team’s collective humility via
social contagion processes. Humility fostered col-
lective promotion focus, that is, a team’s focus on
achieving, reaching its highest potential, and taking
advantage of opportunities. Notably, both collective
humility and collective promotion focus mediated the
humble leader’s positive influence on ultimate team
performance. In sum, humility begets humility and
enables groups to focus on reaching their highest
potential. In further support, Rego et al. (2017a)
found strong team performance effects for leader
humility. Across three studies, humble leaders in-
creased their team’s psychological capital (PsyCap)
and task allocation effectiveness, which in turn pro-
duced significant and positive performance effects
for teams. In a second study examining 82 team lead-
ers from 41 organizations in Portugal, Rego et al.
(2017b) also found that humble team leaders en-
hanced team PsyCap through facilitating greater col-
lective humility. Importantly, the indirect effect of
leader humility was strongest when team leaders were
consistently perceived as humble by all team mem-
bers (i.e. when the ‘strength of leader-expressed hu-
mility’ was high). The relationship between team
PsyCap and subsequent team performance was incon-
clusive, although this may have been due to measure-
ment issues or to low sample size, according to the
Organizational outcomes
Finally, at least two studies have examined organiza-
tional outcomes. First, leader effects on firm perfor-
mance have been partially explained by the humble
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Wiley & Sons Ltd.
14 R. Nielsen and J.A. Marrone
leader’s impact on their TMT’s dynamics. Ou et al.
(2015) found that CEO humility led to higher TMT
integration (supporting Ou et al.s (2014) findings)
and negatively predicted TMT vertical pay disparity.
Both TMT integration and TMT vertical pay disparity
indirectly influenced overall firm performance. For
example, TMT integration led to adopting an am-
bidextrous strategic orientation, ‘or the simultaneous
pursuit of exploration and exploitation in firm strate-
gic activities . . . ’ (Ou et al. 2015, p. 7), which pos-
itively predicted firm performance. Second, Zhang
et al. (2017) hypothesized and found that humble
Chinese CEOs who were also high in narcissism posi-
tively enhanced their firm’s innovative culture and in-
novative performance. These relationships were fully
mediated through displays of socialized charisma.
Neither humility nor narcissism directly predicted so-
cialized charisma or firm innovation; instead, the traits
interacted in contradictory and complementary ways
(a paradox also illuminated by Owens et al. (2015)).
Moving beyond outcomes: independent variables
Although overwhelmingly focused on outcomes,
some humility research has sought to understand the
antecedents of humility. Such attention is especially
warranted given recent research that emphasizes the
state-like qualities of humility, including its capacity
to be primed (e.g. Wright et al. 2017) and developed
or grown over time (e.g. Rego et al. 2017a). Primary
antecedents tested and supported to date concern re-
ligious experiences or attributes of primary relation-
ships, such as adult attachment and leader apologies
to followers.
Religion commitment, religiousness and spiritual
support. Data from four studies (Krause 2010,
2012, 2014; Krause and Hayward 2014) have in-
dicated that more religious commitment and spir-
itual support (such as trust in God and receiving
social support at church) are predictors of self-
reported humility assessed via subsets of the MH
scale items. In addition, Rowatt et al.s (2002) study
assessed humility using self- versus other-ratings
and suggested that quest religiousness leads to more
humility. Quest religiousness involves facing exis-
tential questions and perceiving religious doubts as
Resilience and attachment. Supporting theoretical
claims by Peterson and Seligman (2004), Dwiwardani
et al. (2014) found that ego resilience approximated
significance (p=0.051) and that secure attachment
reached significance as predictors of humility in
a sample of 245 graduate students. The authors
used their own self-reported measure. Additionally,
avoidant attachment negatively predicted humility,
but anxious attachment did not significantly predict
Forgivingness and leader apology. Finally,
Jankowski et al. (2013) used Bollinger et al.s (2006)
self-report measure of humility and found that in-
creased forgiveness of others led to greater humility.
Additionally, the ability to communicate regret to
others for one’s transgressions was a predictor of
other-reported leader humility according to Basford
et al. (2014). As they noted, ‘Leader apologies,
when appraised as sincere by followers, engender
perceptions of humility . . . ’ (Basford et al. 2014,
p. 114).
In reviewing empirical work on humility across nu-
merous disciplines, we make four summary ob-
servations. First, the majority of humility research
has focused on dependent variables, which reside
across self, follower, team and organizational lev-
els. The largest grouping of outcomes – self-related
outcomes – can be further categorized into pro-social
and relational variables, emotional well-being, and
learning and performance outcomes. Studies have
consistently found humility to be a reliable predic-
tor of these hypothesized outcomes after controlling
for the Big Five personality traits, self-esteem, im-
pression management, narcissism, self-enhancement,
general mental ability and demographics (e.g. age,
gender). The cumulative body of work provides sup-
port that humility is positive and productive in a vari-
ety of diverse social settings, including organizations
and work teams. Second, recent advances are begin-
ning to suggest important moderating conditions. The
positive influences of humble leaders are strength-
ened by and may require the presence of comple-
mentary environments (e.g. organizational cultures
of learning and collaboration, proactive and high-
functioning teams) and leader traits (e.g. competence,
sincerity and narcissism). High-pressure conditions
and hierarchical organizational contexts can attenuate
or negate humility’s influence on hypothesized out-
comes. Third, some studies use only self-report mea-
sures of humility, whereas others use multiple and var-
ied strategies to assess humility. Finally, we observe
C2018 The Authors. International Journal of Management Reviews published by British Academy of Management and John
Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Humility 15
that within organizational research, many empirical
advances have emerged from the leadership domain,
an area in which hierarchical roles and power differ-
ences are naturally salient and consequential for all
Future research: studying humility
in organizations
Conceptualizing humility
To date, scholarly definitions are consistent in de-
scribing humility as dispositional, importantly noting
that it is both generally stable over time and malleable
(e.g. Peterson and Seligman 2004). In these ways,
humility – like other virtues, strengths or interper-
sonal orientations – is thought to have both state-like
and trait-like qualities (Chancellor and Lyubomirsky
2013; Owens 2009). However, in terms of conceptu-
alizing humility, it is unclear whether one can vary
in his/her displays of humility and still be assessed
(by oneself or by others) as humble. That is, the
extent to which humble individuals vary in display-
ing humility and perhaps vary in the internal experi-
ences constituting humility (intrapersonal cognitions
and motives) is unclear. Stability associated with hu-
mility is discussed as critical, given that instability
or variance in displays of humility are likely to be
regarded by others as compelling signs that an in-
dividual lacks the trait (Davis et al. 2010, 2011)
and given that variance in displays of humility is
also discussed as both practical and likely to occur
based on situational cues (e.g. Owens et al. 2013;
Tangney 2000). Despite these tensions, scholars have
not explored variability – and, more specifically, sta-
ble variability in humility – as a meaningful construct
Accordingly, we suggest that humility scholars use
advances in personality theory to understand the con-
cept more deeply. We offer several specific sugges-
tions. First, following Mischel and Shoda (1995),
we identify a need to understand more about the
complex linkages among goals, motives, expectan-
cies and affect that are internal to humble individu-
als and constitute their personality system. Similarly,
we need to understand more about the psychological
aspects of situations that trigger such linkages and
result in the humble person displaying his/her humil-
ity for others to observe and receive. Prior research
has given us some initial clues. For example, Davis
et al. (2011) have argued that humility is likely to
be most accurately observed in situations in which
hierarchy is made salient and/or threatened. Extend-
ing this thought, future work might examine whether
humility, by definition, is phasic to some degree,
meaning that ‘it is relevant in only settings that afford
it’ (Peterson and Seligman 2004, p. 23) or trigger its
display. For instance, is it possible that the expression
of humility is not needed – and perhaps by definition
would not be displayed – in relatively neutral situ-
ations (e.g. two co-workers discussing an upcoming
project deadline), but is highly relevant in discus-
sions that challenge roles, relationships or the sta-
tus quo (e.g. discussions of mistakes, disagreements
over power in decision-making)? Such future research
could help explain and answer common questions that
complicate discussions of humility, such as the per-
plexity regarding why some individuals are humble
but may not be regarded as humble and why the same
person can be viewed so oppositely in terms of their
In addition, future research could focus more di-
rectly on the capacity for humility to develop and
grow in persons. The state-like quality of humility
has long been theorized (e.g. Tangney 2000), and re-
cent studies have demonstrated the impact of leader
humility on fostering humility in teams and follow-
ers (e.g. Rego et al. 2017b). For example, writing
exercises that ask individuals to recall humbling
events may improve and facilitate one’s humility by
‘getting people to write and think in ways that align
with how humble people write and think’ (Wright
et al. 2017, p. 9). Additionally, organizational train-
ing programmes aimed at increasing humility could
provide an overview of the quality’s key components,
identify situational cues that commonly trigger and
reinforce one’s pre-existing connections between cog-
nition and affect that result in humility, and thus pro-
vide effective developmental opportunities fostering
the formation of new connections. Notably, the orga-
nizational context may both promote and constrain
humility (Ou et al. 2014; Peterson and Seligman
2004). Greater attention to the psychological aspects
of situations that trigger the development (or display)
of humility could advance our understanding of the
possible ways that organizations can build employee
Studying humility and its effects: extending theory
and practice
Another important topic for advancing humility
research is a deeper understanding of the underlying
rationale through which humility has its effects. We
C2018 The Authors. International Journal of Management Reviews published by British Academy of Management and John
Wiley & Sons Ltd.
16 R. Nielsen and J.A. Marrone
highlight two possible areas future research might
First, the capacity of humility for prosocial relating
may be mediated at least partly by collective or rela-
tional identity orientations. For example, according to
Exline and Hill (2012), one possible mediating mech-
anism explaining the relationship between humility
and generosity is the ability of humble individuals to
look past themselves and their self-interests. The au-
thors have theorized that because humble individuals
do not regard themselves as superior to others, they
are also more likely to look towards the interests of
others, find strengths in others, and regard others as
worthy of positive outcomes. Although we argue that
it remains unclear from this logic alone why or how
humble individuals are more likely to find strengths
in others, we do believe that an ability to look past
one’s self-interest – particularly as it relates to a col-
lective or relational identity orientation discussed by
Nielsen et al. (2010) – is probably an important mech-
anism underlying the effects of humility on pro-social
outcomes such as generosity.
Second, with respect to leadership effectiveness
and team outcomes specifically, humility researchers
are turning their attention towards mediating mech-
anisms such as collective humility, team promotion
focus and shared leadership (e.g. Chiu et al. 2016;
Owens and Hekman 2016). However, additional links
to leader decision-making may also be relevant here.
That is, future studies may explore whether leader
humility leads to higher-quality team and organiza-
tional decisions. This relationship seems likely, given
the humble leader’s preferences for inclusive, col-
laborative and flexible decision-making processes.
Similarly, additional attention to the humble leader’s
openness to others’ ideas (including contrary ideas
and criticisms) (Rego et al. 2016) and his/her capac-
ity to consider exploitation and exploration strate-
gies simultaneously (Ou et al. 2015) could extend
the implications of humility to the broader strat-
egy literature examining CEOs’ and other top ex-
ecutive members’ individual preferences in decision-
Although the above suggestions would further re-
search on the benefits of humility, additional atten-
tion to the potential disadvantages of humility is also
warranted. Among the most pressing issues may be
the notion that leader humility is effective only un-
der limited conditions that do not involve external
threats or crisis and that allow for a learning culture.
Ou et al.s (2014) questions concerning the univer-
sality of the benefits of humility and their call for
greater understanding of the conditions under which
humility may directly or indirectly lead to negative
performance should be answered. Similarly, Weidman
et al. (2016) are critical of the overwhelming focus on
positive, socially desirable characteristics in humility
research and suggest that humility can also assume
negative and self-abasing forms.
Finally, future research could expand the concep-
tualization of humility by considering alternative on-
tological approaches. Traditionally, humility research
relies on an entity approach that assumes that truth
and reality can be known and individually constructed
and that they reside within the minds of individuals
(see Uhl-Bien (2006) for detailed discussions). This
perspective focuses on individuals as discrete entities
and approaches humility as an individual characteris-
tic that would influence particular outcomes and so-
cial dynamics. Alternatively, relational perspectives
assert that knowing and reality are always socially
constructed, residing and constructed within relation-
ships, constantly changing, and embedded within and
created by rich historical and social contexts. Future
humility research incorporating relational perspec-
tives could examine humility as ‘made in” processes’
between individuals as opposed to a ‘maker “of”
processes’ (Hosking (2000) cited in Uhl-Bien (2006,
p. 655)). Humility would be conceptualized not as
a characteristic or state of ‘being’ but as relational
Cunliffe and Eriksen’s (2011) study, for instance,
used ethnography and semi-structured interview tech-
niques to discover leadership embedded in everyday
relational practices, mundane activities and conver-
sations. Leaders were revealed as considering them-
selves in relation to others and as being morally
accountable to others. Similar research approaches
could be used to understand the relational practices
of humble persons or of humility. Guiding research
questions may include: How do relational dynamics,
dialogue and/or language contribute to the construc-
tion of humility? What are the everyday struggles, de-
tails and meaning-making processes occurring within
these interactions? We suspect that such approaches
would uncover humility as embedded in ways of being
and relating to others that illuminate interdependen-
cies and intersubjectivity make meaning of hierarchy,
facilitate empathy in small moments, and foster the
acceptance of limits. Future research is needed to
confirm, deny or add to these ideas. Such approaches
1We would like to thank an anonymous reviewer for this
C2018 The Authors. International Journal of Management Reviews published by British Academy of Management and John
Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Humility 17
could expand the conceptualization of humility in un-
expected ways, uniquely highlighting its interdepen-
dent nature (Frostenson 2016) and leading to ‘practi-
cal theory’, drawing out that which is ‘actively lived
and felt’ (Shotter (2010) cited in Cunliffe and Eriksen
(2011, p. 1428)).
Measuring humility
A significant open question for future research
involves not the resolution of how best to measure
humility, but rather how best to use and combine var-
ious measures to obtain the most accurate assessment
possible. We offer two points for future research.
First, we recommend that scholars use multi-method
approaches when feasible. Drawing from advances in
personality research (Funder 1995), these approaches
may include ratings by knowledgeable informants,
direct observations of behaviour, self-ratings and
diary methods, among others. Future scholars may
wish to consider explicitly what components of
humility are deemed more ‘internal’ or ‘external’
and carefully align their conceptualization with their
measurement approaches.
Second, scholars should closely follow prior re-
search in personality measurement to enhance the ro-
bustness of the chosen measurement approaches. In
particular, when using other-report methods, schol-
ars would benefit from carefully considering the at-
tributes of judges. For instance, maximizing the de-
gree of knowledge and closeness to the ratee is
often an optimal element, but there are costs as
well as benefits to consider when choosing between
close and casual acquaintances (see Funder 1995).
With respect to self-ratings, research suggests that
researchers should ask respondents about thoughts
and feelings rather than activities and hobbies
(Andersen (1984) cited in Funder (1995); Mischel
and Shoda 1995). However, researchers should exer-
cise caution with self-reports. Traits that are central
to one’s self-concept (as several scholars have sug-
gested of humility; e.g. Ou et al. 2014) are linked to
high levels of interrater agreement when assessed via
other-reports (Koestner et al. (1994) cited in Funder
This paper is the first of its kind to provide a com-
prehensive overview of recent research on humility
in organizations. Our review grounds and frames the
tremendous efforts of humility scholars since 2000 for
use by organizational scholars. To recap, we provide
an overview of the consistent components of humil-
ity. After reviewing various measurement strategies,
we suggest that a multi-method approach is preferred
for scholars attempting to strengthen findings on this
topic. Our review bolsters the management field by
extensively summarizing outcomes of humility for
individuals, followers, teams and organizations. Cu-
mulatively, this research strongly supports humility
as a positive and productive quality across a vari-
ety of organizational and work team settings, and it
highlights several important moderating conditions.
We also make several suggestions for future research.
Building on the existing body of work and numerous
opportunities for future inquiry, scholars are well po-
sitioned to extend humility research significantly over
the next two decades.
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Supporting Information
Additional Supporting Information may be found in
the online version of this article at the publisher’s
Appendix S1. Summary of published works in our
review that have examined humility in organizational
research, psychology, and religious studies since 2000
C2018 The Authors. International Journal of Management Reviews published by British Academy of Management and John
Wiley & Sons Ltd.
... This paper explores humility as one attitude in that process. It has been studied more intensely since the 2000s (Nielsen & Marrone, 2018), and is defined as a personal characteristic that involves self-regulatory capacity and avoids behaviors like pride, arrogance, and narcissism, encouraging a pro-social behavior. For Argandona (2015), humility is not a born virtue, being achieved by voluntary and deliberate repetition of acts, and also through examples, since it is an intuitive knowledge. ...
... In a literature review, Nielsen and Marrone (2018) identified four components of humility (but the 4th is controversial). The first is accurate self-awareness, or having a precise view of yourself, by seeing your capabilities and accepting your mistakes and limitations. ...
... For Li et al. (2021), employees' humility is positively associated with exchanging high-quality leaders and the centrality of employees' advisory network. Nielsen and Marrone (2018) summarize the several variables regarding humility in order to explain their predictive validity for corporate results, and to encourage their inclusion in organizational and management studies. Several variables related to cooperation are already used in research, like team integration, team results, and social commitment, but they suggest that the direct relationship between humility and cooperation has not been studied yet. ...
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This study investigated the relationship between peer control, a construct of management accounting generally associated with negative aspects, and humility in performance evaluation, a mediator of cooperation. We also examined the association between trust and cooperation. To address all these relationships, we did a single entity survey in a Brazilian subsidiary of a multinational insurance company, through a representative sample of 147 respondents. The results show that peer control is positively associated with cooperation and with humility in performance evaluation, and the latter is positively associated with cooperation. In addition, trust is also positively associated with cooperation. The results contribute to the literature by developing the humility construct in performance evaluation, which is the attitude after the manager is informed of the achieved outcomes, and by trying untested relationships, such as the role of peer control in cooperation. Results can also be useful for organizations that seek cooperation of their employees, suggesting that they should use peer control, since they contribute to an attitude of humility in evaluating performance, and therefore, to cooperation.
... Humility, gratitude and empatHy -tHe tHeoretical background of tHe current study Humility was defined as the dispositional quality of an individual, a hypoegoic state that includes a specific attitude to oneself indicated by a decrease in selffocus, e.g. the reflection that something or someone greater than the self exists (Frostenson, 2016;Nielsen & Marrone, 2018). Humility is connected with lack of arrogance in relation to others. ...
... low self-focus and high other focus. Humility is built from four components: accurate self-awareness, appreciation of others, openness to feedback, and transcendence perspective (Nielsen & Marrone, 2018). However, Kruse et al. (2017) posited that humility fluctuates over time depending on social contexts. ...
... Humility mitigates human vices, e.g. hubris, arrogance, egoistic attitude, self-aggrandizement (Nielsen & Marrone, 2018). Therefore, humility is usually recognized by an accurate or balanced selfconcept, and the ability to notice others' worth (Kruse et al., 2014). ...
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background Gratitude, empathy and humility have been defined as personality dispositions, as complex interpersonal emotions , and as states that prompt people to be more pro-social. However, studies on the associations between these emotions and authenticity are scarce. The main purpose of this study was to analyze the mediation effect of gratitude and empathy on the association between humility and perceived false identity. participants and procedure The number of participants who took part in the survey was equal to 220 university students (91% female). Students completed questionnaires concerning humility (BSHS scale), gratitude (GQ scale), empathy (QCAE inventory), and perceived false self (POFS scale). results The results confirmed significant correlations between gratitude, empathy and authenticity, but not with humility. Further analysis revealed that gratitude and affective and cognitive empathy explain 9% of the perceived false identity level. The findings confirmed the mediation effect of gratitude on the associations between (1) humility and false self, (2) affective empathy and false self, but not between cognitive empathy and false self. The results also indicated that humility may influence authenticity indirectly via gratitude, but not via dimensions of empathy. conclusions The findings confirm the significance of gratitude and cog-nitive empathy as dispositions that promote a feeling of being authentic. On the other hand, the relationship between affective empathy and false self was positive. key words gratitude; humility; empathy; perceived false self Do positive emotions prompt people to be more authentic? The mediation effect of gratitude and empathy dimensions on the relationship between humility state and perceived false self corresponding author-Katarzyna Tomaszek, Ph.D.,
... Second, we add to the scarce research by considering leader humility as an antecedent of employees' thriving at work. We complement leadership studies (e.g., leader-member exchange, empowering, and transformational leadership) on thriving at work (Hildenbrand et al., 2018;Li et al., 2016;Lin et al., 2020;Nielsen & Marrone, 2018;Xu et al., 2019). In addition, the study contributes to a better understanding of thriving at work from a virtue-based perspective (e.g., IWE and leader humility); therefore, the combination of the two is interesting to examine. ...
... For example, the behavior of a humble leader who is willing to share experiences, accept ideas, provide feedback, and train subordinates can directly improve employees' learning experience. Furthermore, a humble leader who focuses on ethics provides moral encouragement, rewards, and recognition for achievements that can stimulate intrinsic motivation and increase employee enthusiasm and work engagement (Li et al., 2021;Nielsen & Marrone, 2018;Owens et al., 2013;Sousa & van Dierendonck, 2017). Hence, we propose that the various types of support provided by a humble leader can affect the two main components of thriving at work (learning and vitality) simultaneously. ...
... Similarly, as OCB is a discretional behavior, employees' actions to help co-workers can be motivated by a communal orientation that aims to create cooperation and social bonds (Fung et al., 2016, p. 274). Within leader humility, various forms of support provided by leadership have been confirmed regarding OCB (Nielsen & Marrone, 2018;Tuan et al., 2021). Accordingly, we propose the following hypothesis: ...
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This study examined the mediation and moderation models of the relationship between Islamic work ethics (IWE), thriving at work, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), and leader humility. A total of 418 employees from two different sample groups (Islamic banks and educational institutions) in Indonesia were included. A multiple regression hierarchy with PROCESS was used to test the hypotheses. We found a positive influence of IWE and leader humility on thriving and OCB and thriving at work on OCB. Thriving was found to mediate the relationship between IWE and OCB, and the leader humility moderates these relationships. Thriving at work and OCB are dramatically under-represented in Islamic work ethics research, and this study attempts to fill this void. Furthermore, this study reveals the interactive role of leader humility and IWE in enhancing OCB preference and the mediating role of thriving at work in the IWE − OCB relationship.
... Scholars have suggested that although some leaders may more easily gravitate toward humble behaviors than others, humble behaviors are likely to be modified according to situations and experiences (Owens et al., 2015;Vera & Rodriguez-Lopez, 2004). Indeed, Nielsen and Marrone (2018) highlight that "greater attention to the psychological aspects of situations that trigger the development (or display) of humility could advance our understanding of the possible ways that organizations can build employee humility" (p. 819). ...
... Our primary contribution centers on identifying leaders' recall of learning from mistakes as an important intervention for triggering expressed humility. Whereas prior conceptual and empirical studies have largely focused on uncovering the individual differences that affect humility (e.g., Nielsen & Marrone, 2018, Wang et al., 2018, there has been less insight into the situational factors that can prompt leader humility. Considering the malleable nature of expressed humility and the theoretical relevance of learning to elicit humility (Owens et al., 2013), we extend prior research to provide a theoretically grounded explanation for how and when leaders' recall of learning from a past mistake can translate into expressed humility. ...
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Making mistakes is an inevitable part of leadership, but little is known about how and when leaders benefit from reflecting on their missteps. In this paper, we propose that mistakes, when reflected upon, have the potential to increase a leader's expressed humility. We detail how having leaders recall past mistakes can help them formulate plans for learning and encourage them to express humility. We also argue that this positive relationship is strengthened when leaders have a promotion focus. We detail downstream benefits, as increased levels of leaders’ expressed humility is expected to increase their teams’ improvement‐oriented behaviors and, subsequently, team performance. Across multiple studies and using varied methods (i.e., scenario‐based experiments with 955 managerial leaders, a laboratory experiment with 210 student leaders and team members, and a daily field experiment with 85 managers), we empirically test the proposed relationships. Our studies contribute to the literature by identifying leaders’ recall of learning from mistakes as an important intervention to elicit their expressed humility. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... Additionally, a leader's humbleness develops a working environment characterised by trust, respect, and openness by allowing employees to share their concerns and involving them in the organisational decisional process [48]. HL not only shows a concern for the well-being of employees but as a people-first approach. ...
... Because such leaders (HL) employ a people-first approach, they infuse a feeling of trust and help among employees, which they reciprocate positively. Nielsen and Marrone [48] believed that humbleness might strengthen helpfulness among employees. Because past literature discusses a positive relation between ALM and WREN [91,92] and between ALM and SUBW [93] and because HL enhances ALM of employees, we propose the following: H6: Altruism moderates the mediated relationship between humble leadership and burnout via work engagement. ...
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The discussion on employee burnout (BOT) has existed in academic literature for a long time. While BOT was identified as a personal issue, there is a lack of a system approach solution. In this regard, a milestone was achieved in 2019 when the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced a new definition of BOT, recognising it as an occupational phenomenon, thereby placing a greater responsibility on organisational leadership to manage it. Since then, different leadership models have been proposed by scholars to reduce the effect of BOT in an organisation. Humble leadership (HL), as a people-first approach, has recently gained importance in organisational management literature. Studies have indicated that HL significantly influences different employee outcomes. However, research on the significance of HL to mitigate BOT of employees was scarce—similarly, on the underlying mechanisms of how and why. While HL has the potential to reduce BOT in an organisation, little or no research has studied it. Acknowledging these knowledge gaps, the basic aim of this study is to enrich the existing body of knowledge by proposing HL as an effective organisational management strategy to reduce the effect of BOT in the healthcare sector. The study introduces two mediators, work engagement (WREN) and subjective wellbeing (SUBW), to explain the underlying mechanism between HL and BOT. The conditional indirect role of altruism (ALM) was also tested. The data were obtained from hospital employees by employing a survey method (questionnaire, n = 303). Structural equation model (SEM) was considered for testing the hypothesised model to study the interrelationships between variables. The results confirmed that the manifestation of HL in an organisation reduces BOT significantly, and WREN and SUBW mediate this relationship. The study also demonstrates the buffering effect of ALM in the above-proposed relationships. The empirical findings offer multiple contributions in theory and practice, among which the most important one was to realise the profound importance of HL in reducing the effect of BOT in healthcare management.
... However, the cost-benefit evaluation is based on economic considerations and the quality of interaction and social relations between parties. Using the SET assumption, it makes sense that the humble behavior of leaders can promote individual (e.g., IWB) and group (civility climate) behavior based on the following explanation: First, a humble leaders tend to admit their weaknesses so they are more open to new ideas or paradigms, open oneself to criticism, opposite feedback, and collaboration in decision making (Argandona, 2015;Nielsen & Marrone, 2018;Rego et al., 2017). These characteristics can contribute to promoting a work environment that is more open to new ideas, dialogue and debate so that it becomes a driver of creativity and innovation. ...
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Humility is a leadership model inherent in Asian culture and is believed to impact employees' productive behavior and attitudes positively. By examining how leader humility affects the workplace's civility climate and innovative work behavior (IWB), the current study seeks to address the scarcity of studies on these relationships. We also posited that the perceived civility climate mediated the relationship between leader humility and IWB and examined the role of job insecurity as a boundary condition. PLS-SEM was applied to test hypotheses from data on 328 employees in various sectors in Jakarta. The analysis results indicate humility could promote perceived civility and innovative work behavior. In addition, we discovered that civility climate acted as a mediator in leader humility and IWB relationship. Moreover, we empirically reveal unique findings regarding the role of job insecurity as a moderator in the leader-humility-IWB and civility climate-IWB relationship. The present study is the first attempt to explore the role of intermediate civility climate in the relationship between leader humility and IWB. Moreover, we add job insecurity as a boundary condition to provide new insights into explaining IWB
... At the turn of the century, humility was largely neglected by the psychological and social sciences, with few studies examining this topic (Tangney 2000). Over the two decades, there has been a proliferation of research on humility (see AlSheddi 2020; Kelemen et al. 2022;Nielsen and Marrone 2018;McElroy-Heltzel et al. 2019;Worthington et al. 2017). The numerous empirical studies that have emerged had led several scholars to suggest that the study of humility has "turned a corner" (Chancellor and Lyubomirsky 2013: 819). ...
Background In contrast to the vibrant interdisciplinary literature on other virtues, such as forgiveness and gratitude, the study of humility has developed more slowly. Over the 2 decades, there has been a proliferation of research on humility. In this study, we assess the interrelationship between a core feature of religious life, God-mediated control, and humility.PurposeWe assess the interrelationship between God-mediated control (the belief that God is a collaborative partner working together with humans) and humility. We also assess how the relationship between God-mediated control and humility may be conditional on two sociodemographic characteristics among middle-aged and older adults, education and race.Methods Data for this study come from Wave 5 of the Religion, Aging, and Health Study (2013), a nationwide survey of Whites and African Americans (N = 1152). We test our hypotheses with a series of OLS regression models.ResultsWe find that stronger perceptions of God-mediated control were associated with greater humility among older adults. Results from our moderation analyses also show that the relationship between God-mediated control and greater humility was stronger for low status groups, namely, the less educated and Black older adults.Conclusion and ImplicationsThe cognitive belief that God can be trusted as an intimate collaborator in the chaos of human life appears to predict humility among older adults, perhaps by acknowledging one’s dependence on a superior being and appreciating the limits of human finitude and acknowledging God’s greatness outside one’s self. Devoid of secular resources, the less educated and Black Americans might find greater meaning and significance in their association with God and may feel no need to establish their own worth through the attainment of worldly accomplishments or knowledge. Given the centrality of humility to religious/spiritual life, we suggest how future interdisciplinary research can build on the findings of our study.
Demut wäre nicht erstrebenswert, wenn sie nicht messbare Effekte zeitigen würde. In den letzten zehn Jahren hat die Forschung in Hunderten von Projekten messbare, zum überwiegenden Teil positive Ergebnisse von Demut festgestellt. Sie lassen sich in drei Gruppen einteilen: Auswirkungen einer demutsvollen Führungskraft auf die Mitarbeiter (z. B. in Bezug auf Leistung oder Kreativität), Resultate für das gesamte Unternehmen (z. B. in Bezug auf Strategie oder Kultur) sowie Konsequenzen für die Führungskraft selber (z. B. in Bezug auf Leistung oder Stress).
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Resumo A humildade é uma qualidade pouco estudada no ambiente organizacional. O interesse pelas pesquisas acerca da humildade passou a ganhar alguma representatividade a partir deste século. Contudo, as revisões de literatura sobre a humildade na gestão são raras, tornando-se oportuna a sistematização do conhecimento relevante deste campo. Evidenciar a estrutura intelectual do domínio, as pesquisas atuais e as oportunidades de investigação associadas à humildade nas organizações é o objetivo desta pesquisa. Para tanto, foi realizado um estudo bibliométrico no período 2000-2020, e analisados indicadores de atividade e relacionais - cocitações e acoplamento bibliográfico. Os resultados mostram três grandes linhas temáticas que compõem a estrutura intelectual do campo: (i) conceitos, antecedentes e atributos organizacionais., (ii) métodos e escalas, e (iii) questões comportamentais. As pesquisas atuais estão organizadas em quatro grandes frentes: (i) humildade expressa, (ii) humildade e q, (iii) humildade e equipes, e (iv) humildade e comportamento organizacional. Ao final é apresentada uma agenda de pesquisa futura, com destaque para a análise de como a humildade expressa e os comportamentos humildes podem ser ensinados e internalizados na cultura organizacional.
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Top management in organizations must effectively retain middle managers (MMs)- who are central linking pins in strategy processes-as loss of their human and social capital can threaten strategy implementation. While long envisioning how leaders motivate subordinates to stay, management scholars have largely neglected how teams in which leaders belong (e.g., top management teams [TMT]) constitute an organizational context that moderates their ability to retain subordinates. Building on recent theory and research that a leader's humility discourages subordinates from voluntarily departing by increasing their job satisfaction, we propose that faultlines in TMTs can exert cross-level effects attenuating how humble executives sustain MMs' job satisfaction, and how MMs' job dissatisfaction drives their voluntary turnover. We verify these effects with a multisource, multiphase dataset of 43 TMTs, 313 top executives, and 502 MMs. Our study thus bridges the macro and micro divide to offer a multilevel inquiry into contextual influences on voluntary turnover, identifies a boundary condition for leader humility effects, and clarifies how TMT faultlines represent a contextual constraint on how top executives induce MM subordinates to stay.
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The present study was designed to produce novel theoretical insight regarding how leader humility and team member characteristics foster the conditions that promote shared leadership and when shared leadership relates to team effectiveness. Drawing on social information processing theory and adaptive leadership theory, we propose that leader humility facilitates shared leadership by promoting leadership-claiming and leadership-granting interactions among team members. We also apply dominance complementary theory to propose that team proactive personality strengthens the impact of leader humility on shared leadership. Finally, we predict that shared leadership will be most strongly related to team performance when team members have high levels of task-related competence. Using a sample composed of 62 Taiwanese professional work teams, we find support for our proposed hypothesized model. The theoretical and practical implications of these results for team leadership, humility, team composition, and shared leadership are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record
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Humility is a virtue with a rich and varied past. Its benefits and pitfalls – indeed, its status as a virtue – have been debated by philosophers and theologians. Recently, psychologists have entered into the dialectic, with a small but growing body of empirical research at their disposal. We will discuss this research on humility, including our own recent contributions. Our goal is to shed light on the following three important questions: First, what is humility? Second, why we should care about being humble? Finally, are there constructive steps we can take to induce people to adopt more humble at titudes towards themselves and others? In the process of answering these questions, we will consider the major empirical accounts of humility in the literature, highlight their primary difficulties, and then introduce a new account that cuts through the confusion, getting to the core of what we take humility to be.
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We assess the perceived impact of leaders’ humility (both self and other-reported) on team effectiveness, and how this relationship is mediated by balanced processing of information. Ninety-six leaders (plus 307 subordinates, 96 supervisors, and 656 peers of those leaders) participate in the study. The findings suggest that humility in leaders (as reported by others/peers) is indirectly (i.e., through balanced processing) related to leaders’ perceived impact on team effectiveness. The study also corroborates literature pointing out the benefits of using other-reports (rather than self-reports) to measure humility, and suggests adding humility to the authentic leadership research agenda.
We hypothesize that (a) the level of humility expressed by leaders predicts team performance through, serially, team humility and team PsyCap, and (b) the strength (i.e., consensus within the team) of the leader humility, team humility and team PsyCap moderates the paths of that hypothesized model. A sample comprising 82 teams (82 leaders; 332 team members) was collected. Team members reported leader humility, team humility and team PsyCap. Leaders reported team performance. To handle the risks of common method bias, each mediating path of the hypothesized model is based on data from two different subsamples within each team. Our model’s most novel theoretical contribution is the (moderated mediated) connection between leader humility, collective humility, and team PsyCap, and this was consistently supported in our data. Our inconsistent findings dealing with the relationship between team PsyCap and performance is well established in the literature and our results in both sub-samples were in the theorized direction. The study contributes to understand why, how and when humble leaders are more effective.
We examine how two seemingly contradictory yet potentially complementary CEO traits-humility and narcissism-interact to affect firm innovation. We adopt a paradox perspective and propose that individuals can have paradoxical traits and that, in particular, humility and narcissism can coexist harmoniously, especially among the Chinese, whose philosophical tradition embraces paradoxical thinking and behaving. CEOs that are both humble and narcissistic are hypothesized to be more likely to have socialized charisma, to cultivate an innovative culture, and to deliver innovative performance. Two studies using multisource data involving 63 CEOs, 328 top managers, and 645 middle managers in Study 1 and 143 CEOs and 190 top managers in Study 2 support the hypotheses and point to new directions for studying CEO traits and their effects on firm outcomes.
Although there is a growing interest toward the topic of leader humility, extant research has largely failed to consider the underlying mechanisms through which leader humility influences team outcomes. In this research, we integrate the emerging literature of leader humility and social information processing theory to theorize how leader humility facilitates the development of collective team psychological capital, leading to higher team task allocation effectiveness and team performance. While Owens and Hekman (2016) suggest that leader humility has homogeneous effects on followers, we propose a potential heterogeneous effect based on the complementarity literature (e.g., Tiedens, Unzueta, & Young, 2007) and the principle of equifinality (leaders may influence team outcomes through multiple pathways; Morgeson, DeRue, & Karam, 2010). In three studies onducted in China, Singapore, and Portugal, including an experiment, a multisource field study, and a three-wave multisource field study, we find support for our hypotheses that leader humility enhances team performance serially through increased team psychological capital and team task allocation effectiveness. We discuss the theoretical implications of our work to the leader humility, psychological capital, and team effectiveness literatures; and offer suggestions for future research.
Psychological inquiry into humility has advanced considerably over the past decade, yet this literature suffers from 2 notable limitations. First, there is no clear consensus among researchers about what humility is, and conceptualizations vary considerably across studies. Second, researchers have uniformly operationalized humility as a positive, socially desirable construct, while dismissing evidence from lay opinion and theological and philosophical traditions suggesting that humility may also have a darker side. To redress these issues, we conducted the first comprehensive, bottom-up analysis of the psychological structure of humility. Here we report 5 studies (total N = 1,479) that involve: (a) cluster analysis and categorization of humility-related words, generated by both lay persons and academic experts; (b) exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses of momentary and dispositional humility experiences; and © experimental induction of a momentary humility experience. Across these studies, we found converging evidence that humility can take 2 distinct forms, which we labeled "appreciative" and "self-abasing" humility. Appreciative humility tends to be elicited by personal success, involve action tendencies oriented toward celebrating others, and is positively associated with dispositions such as authentic pride, guilt, and prestige-based status. In contrast, self-abasing humility tends to be elicited by personal failure, involves negative self-evaluations and action tendencies oriented toward hiding from others' evaluations, and is associated with dispositions such as shame, low self-esteem, and submissiveness. Together, these findings provide a systematic and empirically grounded understanding of humility. (PsycINFO Database Record
Organizational Citizenship Behavior: Its Nature, Antecedents, and Consequences examines the vast amount of work that has been done on organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) in recent years as it has increasingly evoked interest among researchers in organizational psychology. No doubt some of this interest can be attributed to the long-held intuitive sense that job satisfaction matters. Authors Dennis W. Organ, Philip M. Podsakoff, and Scott B. MacKenzie offer conceptual insight as they build upon the various works that have been done on the subject and seek to update the record about OCB.