How To Be a Confident AND Humble Leader

Leverage Your Strengths AND Have a Growth Mindset

I’ll never forget the “AHA” moment I had over a decade ago when I looked at the results from the largest study ever conducted around engagement by the Gallup Organization. It seemed crystal clear – if I was going to be truly effective as a leader, I needed to stop trying to fix my weaknesses, and instead, focus my time and energy on leveraging my strengths and focusing on natural talents. Effective leaders are confidently strengths based.

But then, a few years later, I started to dig into the research of psychologist, Dr. Carol Dweck, and her work around the power of embracing a growth mindset. Her work demonstrated that it was stretching yourself, trying new things, and making lots of mistakes that makes you a great leader. Leadership is all about humility.

So, who is right? Should I side with Gallup research and strive to live out my strengths, or should I follow the teaching of Carol Dweck and embrace a growth mindset? At the end of the day, is leadership about being confident OR is leadership about being humble?

Well, the answer is…YES!

Leadership is about being confident AND Humble. This dilemma between being confidently strengths based and humbly embracing a growth mindset is not a problem to solve, but instead, a tension to manage. And I think it’s one of the most important tensions you must leverage as a leader.

Leading with confidence is a good thing. It builds trust and allows you to inspire and assure others through your experience and expertise. But here’s the thing, when you overfocus on confidence to the neglect of humility, you become ignorant and come across as arrogant, closed-minded and unwilling to learn.

When you embrace humility as a leader, you’re able to constantly learn and grow, and your vulnerability makes you approachable and relatable. But if you overdo it and overfocus on humility to the neglect of confidence, others lose out because you’re holding back your true strengths and capabilities, and you end up feeling inferior and insecure.

When it comes to leadership, confidence and humility are a package deal. One value won’t succeed without the other.

Reflect on your leadership this past season. Have you had the confidence to feel self-assured, inspire others, and make a real difference? Have you had the humility required for genuine curiosity that allowed you to learn and grow? I bet you’ll find that you spend more time in one of these quadrants than the other three:

Confidence AND Humility

Regardless of what quadrant you find yourself in, my encouragement to you is to go big with both! Don’t settle for one option, and don’t compromise so that you end up with watered-down, mediocre versions of both options. Instead, fully embrace BOTH options.

 

If there is one secret that I’ve learned around great leadership, it is to be both fully confident and fully humble. And when you do this and start to both live out your strengths AND embrace a growth mindset, you’ll tap into the power of healthy tension and see your leadership go to the next level!

 

Tim Arnold

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