Leadership and Humility

In November of 2015, HBR published an article entitled, "We Like Leaders Who Underrate Themselves". The authors describe an extensive study based on 69,000 managers, 750,000 respondents and hundreds of companies where through an analysis of 360-degree feedback data, they found that leaders who rate themselves poorly compared to how their subordinates rate them are not only seen more favorably by their employees, but actually have more engaged employees.

Bottom line to the article:

"The more people overrated themselves, the higher the probability that they have fatal flaws and the lower the probability they have any strengths. The more people underrate themselves, however, the higher the probability they have strengths and the lower the probability they have fatal flaws."

This isn't saying that people with low self-esteem are better leaders. This is saying that people who view themselves more critically than others do make for better leaders.

If you want to be a better leader, I don't think the lesson here is to be overly critical of yourself. I think the actual lesson is to be realistic about your abilities, seek feedback regularly, and listen earnestly to said feedback. If people rate you lower in areas where you think you are excellent, seek their advice. Don't set out to prove your awesomeness to them, instead find out from them how you might become awesome.