The Power of Mimicry and the Call for Humble Leaders

The Power of Mimicry and the Call for Humble Leaders

Unlocking Organisational Potential


To identify humble leaders in your workplace may seem like a difficult challenge. 

Posing the question ‘Who is humble?’ to a group is probably a bad idea, and it may even elicit the ironic response of ‘I’m very humble’ from some of your more self-confident (and less self-aware) employees. 

So, before I explain how Talent Prospecting can identify humble leaders in your company, let's look at some of the reasons why you may wish to prize humility in your organisation.

In the realm of human behaviour, the concept of mimicry holds a profound significance. From the playground to the boardroom, mimicry and the tendency to follow a leader play a crucial role in shaping our actions and decisions. 

Anyone who has ever accidently said a bad word in front of their four year old will be well aware of the fact that we are biologically programmed for mimicry. 

In this blog post, I will delve into the intricate workings of mimicry, explore why individuals are inclined to follow leaders, and shed light on the importance of promoting humble leaders who embody traits like active listening, humility, self-awareness, and trustworthiness. We will uncover how humble leadership can harness the power of mimicry to foster a thriving and inclusive organisational culture. 

The Evolutionary Basis of Mimicry

Mimicry is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history. Humans have an innate inclination to imitate the behaviours and actions of others, especially those in positions of authority or influence.

This primal instinct, developed over centuries, helped our ancestors navigate complex social structures, survive in groups, and learn essential skills for survival. Mimicry served as a means of social bonding and transmitting knowledge within communities. 

Mirror Neurons and Social Contagion

Neuroscience has uncovered a fascinating mechanism behind mimicry known as mirror neurons. These specialised neurons in our brains are activated when we observe others performing an action. Mirror neurons allow us to simulate and understand the actions, intentions, and emotions of those around us.

As a result, when we witness someone in a leadership role, our mirror neurons prompt us to imitate their behaviour and actions, fostering a sense of connection and alignment. I am again reminded of the angelic face of my goddaughter as she smiled up at me and parroted my favourite expletive. 

Mimicry and the Influence of Leaders 

Leaders possess unique qualities and behaviours that attract followership. However, it is crucial to recognize that not all leaders are created equal and the desire to lead others, to paraphrase J.R.R Tolkien, is a pretty good indicator of someone who may not be suitable to handle such responsibility

Humble leaders, characterised by traits such as adaptability, conscientiousness, self-awareness, and trustworthiness, have a distinct advantage in harnessing the power of mimicry. When followers observe humble leaders who genuinely listen, acknowledge their own fallibility, and prioritise the well-being of others, they are more likely to mimic these positive behaviours. 

By modelling humility and fostering a culture of trust, humble leaders inspire their followers to do the same, promoting collaboration and openness within the organisation. 

The Role of Trust and Inclusive Culture

Humble leaders create an environment built on trust and psychological safety. By actively listening to their team members and valuing their input, these leaders encourage diverse perspectives and foster a culture where everyone feels valued and heard. This inclusive culture cultivates an atmosphere of innovation, creativity, and engagement. When followers witness their leaders practising humility and self-awareness, they are more likely to embrace these traits themselves, contributing to a positive work environment and enhancing overall organisational performance. 

The Ethical Dimension of Humble Leadership

In addition to its positive impact on organisational dynamics, humble leadership carries an ethical dimension. Humble leaders display integrity and authenticity in their actions. Their self-awareness enables them to recognize their limitations and seek input from others, leading to informed decision-making and avoiding the traps of overconfidence or arrogance. 

By promoting humble leaders who lead with integrity and accountability, organisations can foster a culture of ethical behaviour and responsible leadership.

Mimicry, deeply ingrained in our evolutionary makeup, influences our behaviour and choices in both subtle and profound ways. By understanding the dynamics of mimicry and followership, organisations can harness its power to build trust, inspire collaboration, and cultivate a positive organisational culture. As we navigate the complexities of the modern workplace, let us recognize the transformative power of humble leaders and nurture their presence to shape a brighter future for organisations and their members. 

So how can you seek out those who both possess the skills vital for leadership we have previously explored?

Talent Prospecting has developed a unique approach by which we recognise employees based on the positive feedback of their peers. This removes the opportunity for self-promoting behaviour and instead elicits a culture where employees can be recognised for their hard work, altruism and interpersonal skills; whether or not they are the loudest voices in the room. 

Conall Horgan, 

Talent Prospecting


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Goffee, R., & Jones, G. (2007). Why should anyone be led by you? Harvard Business Review, 85(5), 62-69. 

Hogg, M. A. (2001). A social identity theory of leadership. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5(3), 184-200. 

Keltner, D., Gruenfeld, D. H., & Anderson, C. (2003). Power moves: Complementarity in dominant and submissive nonverbal behavior. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(3), 558-568. 

Owens, B. P., Johnson, M. D., & Mitchell, T. R. (2013). Expressed humility in organizations: Implications for performance, teams, and leadership. Organization Science, 24(5), 1517-1538.

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