The Confident-Humble Leader: How to Lead with the right dose of both

By Marianne Renner: Leadership Coach, Speaker, Author

We all know that the best leaders have confidence. But did you know they also have a healthy dose of humbleness?

If you lean too far one way or the other, the results can be detrimental. You could lose trust with your team or sabotage your ability to make the impact you desire.

The mark of a great leader is someone with the right balance of both confidence and humbleness.

Confident-Only Leader (Steam Roller)

Having confidence is a good thing. Confidence demonstrates knowledge and the ability to lead a team toward a common vision.

 But without humbleness, the confident-only leader, or what we call the “steam roller” can come across as arrogant and lose respect of the team. With all of their passion and zeal, Steam Rollers can appear as though they’re the only ones with good ideas.In their eagerness, they steam-roll right over others.

You might recognize a steam roller as the person who talks far more than listens. Their requests come across as demands, and they leave little room for others to ask questions about strategy or tasks.

Result

You might be a steam roller if you rarely hear questions from your team, or if those around you hesitate to challenge your ideas. Others may follow you but only because they have to. As a result, they won’t give you their best work. More likely, they’ll give you the bare minimum. If you find yourself struggling with high turnover on your team and are unable to hold on to high performers, this could be an indication that you lean heavily toward confidence without humbleness.

Humble-Only Leader (Door Mat)

We don’t always think of humbleness when we think of great leaders. But the right amount of humbleness brings out the best in others. Lean too much into humbleness, however, and your team will lose faith in your ability to lead.

The humble-only leader, aka the “door mat,” tends to be overly self-conscious and therefore second-guesses every decision regardless of how big or small.

You might recognize these leaders as those who take a subservient position to others on the team. They defer to their peers when they need to make important decisions.

Result

You might be a door mat if you have a hard time taking a stand on important issues. You may notice that others around you don’t follow your lead. You feel like your good ideas don’t get the attention they deserve. These leaders can feel like an actual door mat and become frustrated as others walk right past their ideas.

Door mats are also empathetic and caring toward others, which are great qualities in a leader. But because they lack the confidence they need, those characteristics either become overused or lost in a sea of uncertainty. Empathy and care, when overused, manifest as lack of boundaries and people-pleasing.

Neither-Nor Leader (Train Wreck)

There is one more potential pitfall you can fall into as a leader. This is the leader who has neither confidence, nor humbleness.

This is the most ineffective and dangerous leader of all. That’s because leaders with neither confidence nor humbleness work hardto hide their shortcomings. They don’t believe in their abilities, and because they lack humbleness, they overcompensate by trying to outperform and out-prove those around them. They feel an overwhelming need to prove their worth. They try to mask their self-perceived inabilities with sarcasm, snide remarks, criticism, and negativity. These actions stem from fear of not being good enough and fear of getting “found-out.”

Result

Unfortunately, these leaders leave quite a bit of wreckage in their wake. They either create or stimulate drama and drag others down around them.

Good news

The good news is that every leader can grow to become the confident-humble leader, or what I call the “influencer.” Your levels of confidence and humbleness are not fixed like your eye color or height. No matter where you are currently, there are actions you can take to improve and work your way into the right balance of confidence and humbleness.

Every leader has the ability to become a leader of impact and influence. Here are a few steps you can take to become the leader you were destined to become.

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness can turn any leader into a great leader. The goal is to increase awareness of your confidence or humbleness throughout the day. Having self-awareness is like having a golden key that unlocks a magic door to new growth. Without awareness, you have nothing. With awareness, you have the power to change.

Daily self-check-ins are a great way to raise self-awareness. At the end of the day spend 15 minutes, reviewing your calendar. Reflect on your meetings and interactions with others. Use a daily journal to answer these questions:

  1. Where did I demonstrate confidence?
  2. Where did I demonstrate humbleness?
  3. How did others respond during our interactions?
  4. What would I change next time?

Practice for the confident-only leader

Ask more. Listen more. If you skew heavily toward confidence and find yourself light on humbleness, here’s something that will help. Ask for others’ ideas before sharing your own during a conversation or meeting. Commit to listening more and talking less. You’ll still be able to share your ideas, and your team will be more receptive to hearing them.

Practice for the humble-only leader

Step outside your comfort zone. Trust your instincts, and act on your ideas – especially when you don’t feel like it. Remind yourself when problems arise that you have the answers. You’ll be right 90% of the time. And when you’re not, you can learn and grow from those lessons.

No judgment zone. No one gets it perfect. There’s no such thing as a perfectly confident-humble leader. There will be times when you’ll feel more confident and other times when you won’t. At times you’ll have triggers – those experiences that lead you to retreat into self-doubt. Your position on the confidence-humbleness matrix will fluctuate.

The key is not to judge yourself harshly. Rather, just notice. Be aware of where you’re leaning. Evaluate where you want to grow.

You’ll quickly notice the positive impact you have on those around you. Your teams will become more energized. Productivity will increase. You’ll have just the right dose of confidence and humbleness.

 

Don’t know where to start? A key to uncovering what type of leader you are starts with understanding your personality. Download my DISC worksheet to learn more. 

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