Can humiliation make you a great leader?

I read an interesting article on Forbes this week about how experiencing humiliation can help business leaders grow. In the piece, Kathy Caprino asks Bill Treasurer, chief engagement officer of Giant Leap Consulting and author of books A Leadership Kick in the Ass and Courage Goes to Work, his take on how humiliation can make better leaders.

In the piece, Treasurer states: “Humility is the positive outcome of humiliation, and sometimes the best thing that can happen to a leader, particularly with an oversized ego, is to suffer through an embarrassing failure.” While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that every great leader requires a mammoth failure in order to grow and gain respect from their staff and peers, it does raise some interesting points around leadership and setting an example.  

Whether they like to think so or not, leaders are role models for everyone working within that business and how they handle set-backs, mess-ups and failures filters down the chain and directly affects the behaviours of others. A common issue I’ve encountered through my work with prominent leaders is a temptation to hide away when things aren’t going well. Redundancies, lost clients and disappointing figures all happen sometimes and hiding behind a memo in an ivory tower is one of the worst things leaders can do.  

Dealing with tricky situations head-on is one of the key ways leaders develop wisdom while remaining grounded and emphatic to the needs of their people. I firmly believe this can be achieved through shifts in the day-to-day communications and actions of leaders, and doesn’t require public humiliation.

What do you think? Do embarrassing mistakes made in front of employees and peers lead to more well-rounded leaders? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the subject so do get in touch today.  

Fiona McKay