Imagine, if you will, the CEO of your company saying he rarely bothers to read the latest industry news because, in his or her words: “I’m, like, a smart person.”

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“I’m, like, a smart person.” — Donald J. Trump, soon-to-be leader of the free world.

Those words from President-elect Trump were offered recently as an explanation for why, since winning the election, he has turned away some of his daily intelligence briefings.

The implication is that he doesn’t need reports from America’s intelligence services because he is already intelligent enough.

I bring this up in a workplace column not to start a partisan political fight but to argue the importance of humility in modern-day leadership, if not in government then at least in our places of work.

Imagine, if you will, the CEO of your company saying he rarely bothers to read the latest industry news because, in his or her words: “I’m, like, a smart person.”

Would you feel reassured? Would you think this is a person who, if you had a suggestion for how to improve any facet of the company, might listen to you? In a meeting with that CEO, would you consider disagreeing with her or him?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’re either lying or you think you’re, like, a smart person.

Truly smart leaders don’t need to comment on their own smartitude. (I’m so smart that I can make up words with reckless abandon.) They don’t boast of ignoring information — they take in all the information they can and use it to make informed decisions.

But it seems, in the current president-elect and certainly in some workplace leaders, there is a sense that humility is a weakness.

“It’s a very poorly understood concept,” said Karl Albrecht, an executive management consultant and an expert on cognitive styles and the development of advanced thinking skills. “In our culture, to be humiliated means to be put down or to be made psychologically inferior. When a person is described as humble, people tend to think that means he lets people walk all over him.”

Last year, Albrecht wrote a piece on humility for Psychology Today, noting: “Humility is about emotional neutrality. It involves an experience of growth in which you no longer need to put yourself above others, but you don’t put yourself below them, either. Everyone is your peer — from the most ‘important’ person to the least. You’re just as valuable as every other human being on the planet, no more and no less. It’s about behaving and reacting from purposes, not emotions. You learn to simply disconnect or de-program the competitive reflex in situations where it’s not productive.”

I humbly submit that Albrecht’s words make a lot of sense.

And as someone who reports weekly on the working world, I can say with confidence that a leader unafraid to be humble will be far more effective — and valued — than one who whose insecurities manifest themselves in narcissistic outbursts.

“If you can let go of the need to feel superior over other people, you can liberate your energy,” Albrecht said. “We all have a common energy that we take with us, and we can squander that energy in a lot of negative ways if we want to.

If we do that, we’re diminishing the energy we have for creative thought. When you give up the need to be right about everything, you open up energy to all kinds of creative things.”

Some hold fast to an almost bullying style of leadership, thinking that any kind of admission of self-doubt or lack of understanding is a sign of weakness. That appears to be the case with our new president, and perhaps it will serve him and the country well. That remains to be seen.

But in our workplaces, the toughness-first mindset has gone the way of the dodo. And good riddance.

Albrecht said the best leaders have found that a capacity to learn makes them better at their jobs.

“Say somebody comes up with an idea in a meeting,” he said. “Do I have to shoot the idea down? Can I acknowledge the idea, or does that make me smaller? We have all those primitive reactions that we carry around. In management, one still has to be tough, but you can reserve being tough for the times when being tough is needed. When dealing with people every day, you need to liberate your ego.”

Albrecht gives managers three mantras to use if they want to exercise their minds and get to a place of greater humility. Those mantras are:

1. I don’t know.

2. I made a mistake.

3. I changed my mind.

“If you can condition yourself to use these so you can easily say, ‘Yes, I did make a mistake’ or ‘I was completely confused’ about a certain subject, then you won’t feel humiliated or go into some kind of ego self-destruction. If one has an attitude of humility about one’s capacity, then one has an aptitude for learning.”

I love this advice, and I hope managers, bosses, CEOs and others in positions of power will take it to heart. You can be the smartest person in the room and still admit there are things you don’t understand.

That’s not a weakness, it’s an asset.

And it applies to everyone, all the way up to the president of the United States.

Rex Huppke writes for the Chicago Tribune. Send him questions by email at