Five Ways to Be a Humble and Confident Leader

AdVance Leadership » Five Ways to Be a Humble and Confident Leader

Welcome to Friday 411, issue #062. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll learn five phrases that demonstrate both humility and confidence.

1 Insight

You can be both humble and confident. Both are necessary for healthy leadership.

Effective leadership starts with character. Most of the time when people talk about “character,” they’re referring to moral character. This type of character is about making ethical decisions. A strong moral compass is essential to leadership. Unless you’re a mob boss or drug lord, few people disagree with that sentiment.
There is, however, a different kind of character that doesn’t get discussed as much: leadership characterLeadership character enables leaders to build trust-filled relationships and get results for their organization.
How do you develop leadership character? It starts with humility. If character is the foundation of great leadership, humility is the cornerstone of character.

The Paradox of Humility

At first glance, it can seem like humility and confidence oppose each other. But this is not the case. Leaders need to exude confidence in their:

  • Vision
  • Teams
  • Strategy
  • Decisions

They can even show confidence in their own abilities and still remain humble.
Humility opposes pride, not confidence. Pride is:

  • thinking too highly of yourself
  • thinking too much about yourself
  • believing that you’re better than others
  • assuming you can handle everything yourself
  • considering that your ideas are always the best ideas
  • putting your needs and wants ahead of others or ahead of the organization’s

What Humility Is

Humility means acknowledging that:

  • your perception isn’t necessarily reality
  • you don’t know everything
  • you need other people
  • you have blind spots
  • you can be wrong

Humility and confidence go hand-in-hand. It takes confidence to demonstrate humility.

How to Show Humility

Humility is a quality that you can develop. Becoming a humble leader first requires practicing humility.
Here are five statements that will build your humility, your confidence, and ultimately, your team’s confidence in you:

1. I made a mistake.

You will make mistakes. Every human makes mistakes every single day. The difference between you and them is that, as a leader, your mistakes are
(1) on display for a lot more people to see and
(2) affect a lot more people.
Demonstrate humility by quickly acknowledging when you make a mistake. It could be a wrong decision you made. Or a miscommunication that caused problems.

2. I need your help.

When you say these words, you admit that you don’t know everything and you aren’t good at everything. You can’t accomplish everything on your own.
In fact, when you say these words, you are telling the person that they are smarter and/or more skilled than you. Talk about humility!
Don’t make the common error of saying, “I need you to do this for me.” That comes across as prideful and self-serving. Instead, tell people that you need them. Telling people that you need their help demonstrates how important they are to you.

 3. I was wrong.

Admitting that you are wrong quickly demonstrates humility. Sometimes you’ll make a decision, and it doesn’t turn out how you expect. Other times, you have an incorrect assumption about a person.
In her wonderful Ted Talk On Being Wrong, Kathryn Shultz establishes that most of us will do anything to avoid being wrong. When someone disagrees with your opinion, you believe they are either ignorant, an idiot, or evil.
We were with a leader recently who admitted that she had an wrong assumption about an employee. He thought the employee was lazy and incompetent. He talked to the employee’s direct supervisor and recommended to terminate the employee. The direct supervisor, instead, moved the employee into a different role. The employee became one of the top producers for the whole company.
This humble leader admitted that he made wrong assumptions about the employee.
Humble leaders admit when they are wrong.

4. Will you forgive me?

Once you admit that you can make mistakes and that you can be wrong, you recognize that you will do things that negatively impact other people. Maybe you

  • lost your temper
  • lashed out at a person
  • sent a confidential email to the wrong person
  • embarrassed someone in front of their coworkers

Arrogant leaders assume that others will forgive and forget. Humble leaders seek reconciliation. They not only admit that they are wrong but also that they want to make things right when they do make mistakes.

5. You are important to me.

Psychology Today reports that 85% of people have low self-esteem. Many of the people you lead may not think that they are important. (You might even believe that to be true of yourself).
Tell someone that they are important to you, and watch what happens. Their eyes light up. You add energy to their lives.
You give them value, dignity, honor, and respect.
The people you lead need you to be both humble and confident. Use these five statements to help you do both.

For more on Character and Leadership, check out:

1 Action

Select one of these phrases to practice in the next week.


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