Uncovering Humility: A Key Leadership Skill for Success

Interview Question to Identify Humble Team Players

“Humility is an often overlooked leadership skill”.

This interview question will help you to figure out if someone is really a humble team player in a job interview.

It’s often those who toot their own horn who draw the most attention, but evidence shows that HUMILITY is actually an essential skill for great leadership.

Academic studies show staying humble helps us learn more quickly, and that teams of humble leaders tend to perform better. Jeff Bezos has said intellectual humility is his top sign of true intelligence.

This means if you’re hiring for any sort of leadership position, you want to assess the ability of candidates to

  • empower others
  • acknowledge their own limitations, and
  • learn from their mistakes.

But while screening for applicants,

how do you get at a quiet trait like humility?

Offer of employmentWharton professor and best-selling author Adam Grant has studied the interview process. As part of a long roundup from First Round Review of top startup leaders’ advice on how to screen for subtle but essential skills when hiring, Grant shared a question targeted specifically at assessing humility and the capacity to be a team player.

The question is: “To whom do you owe your success?”

What are you listening for when you ask this? “What differentiates a faker from a truly humble person is often that the fakers are really focused on impressing you and kissing up. So they will name people above them in the hierarchy,” Grant explains. Better answers skip this name-dropping in favor of wholehearted credit sharing.

Also, keep an eye on pronouns. The more times you hear “I” and “me,” the less likely it is that the candidate is a true team player. The more you hear “we” and “us,” the more likely it is you’re speaking to a truly humble person. Citing Nelson Mandela or their last boss doesn’t win candidates points here. You’re looking for people who are capable of learning not just from bigwigs, but from folks from all walks of life

“Humble people recognize you can learn from anyone and everyone,” Grant says. “Take the student who was admitted to Yale and who asked his school’s janitor to write his recommendation letter. The appreciation and curiosity that the student showed toward somebody who’s literally at the bottom of the totem pole in that high school is a sign of humility.”

So when next looking for great leadership potential, focus on those who are flexible and ready to learn from others, while owning their mistakes and including others in their success.