Republished from July 19, 2019. (I’ve been under the weather this week but plan to be back next Monday.)
It is a fine line indeed. I have often thought one of the most difficult lines a leader must walk is the razor-thin margin that separates the importance of confidence and the destructive nature of arrogance.
When it comes to effective leadership, there are many dichotomies a leader must navigate. Following is just a sampling of a lengthy list of contrasting requirements of effective leadership:
- At times, leaders will lead from the front lines and at other times they will be bringing up the rear.
- They must know when to speak boldly with authority and when to listen quietly with their heart.
- They must lead broadly at the organizational level and yet connect individually with people at a person-to-person level.
- Leaders must reflect on, and learn from, the past while preparing strategically and proactively for the future. They must balance both the reactive and proactive requirements of their role.
- They know when to demand more, or better, with firmness and when to relax the reigns of control with gentle encouragement and compassion.
Again, the list of contrasting behaviors and skills is long.
My focus this morning is around humbleness; finding that “magic tipping point” which separates humbleness and confidence on one end of the spectrum from arrogance and conceit on the other.
If I were being asked to follow someone into a battle with life and death consequences, I personally would want to follow someone who is competent and confident. I want to follow someone who is going to bring his or her platoon out the other side of battle not only victorious, but more importantly, safe, alive and well. If your life were at risk, what qualities would you expect from a leader?
And yet, while competence and confidence are certainly important leadership qualities, we also know most people are turned off by arrogance, conceit, and self-centeredness. People tend to resent, and even become demotivated or disenfranchised by people overflowing with an attitude of pride, self-importance and self-focus. Confidence, as a leadership characteristic, tends to generate respect in others, while arrogance tends to generate disrespect.
“Humility isn’t denying your strengths; it’s being honest about your weaknesses.” – Rick Warren
Without the trust and respect of others, leaders become weak and an obstacle to the very success they desire. This then, often results in even greater levels of increasingly destructive behaviors of self-promotion and self-focus.
A colleague of mine, Ms. Kris Olson, taught me about “humble confidence” as an aspirational goal for leaders everywhere.
Here are a few thoughts for your consideration:
- Let your game speak for itself. This is a lesson I learned from our son’s Y-Ball coach in grade school basketball. This coach taught his players to not brag, or even talk about their individual performance. Great play, he said, would be self-evident to all who see the game. Let your game speak for itself. Always be quiet, humble and if asked to comment about the game, honor the team and your teammates first. Ballgames are almost always won by teams and not by individual players and stars.
- “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” – Rick Warren; A humble leader’s first concern is almost always about the well-being of their people, their teams and the organizations they lead. You know you are a leader when you think about those around you first, when others become your first concern.
- Never mistake humbleness as weak. Your strength lies in your ability to be humble.
- Catch yourself being “self-centric” as opposed to “other-centric”. Here is a fun idea for your consideration: The next time someone shows you a photograph of a group that includes you, notice where you look first. Now, a question for your consideration: How do you determine if it is a “good picture” or not? Do you determine it to be a good picture based only on your smile, your eyes, or your hair? Or, do you look at how everyone looks in total when judging the picture to be good or bad? I know where I look all too often, how about you?
I suggest we all pay attention to our level of self-focus and self-centeredness this week. I know I have a great deal of work to do in this area. Will you join me?
Related Articles and Bonus Quotes Below.
How will you live and lead differently, or better, this week?
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Have a great week!
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
- Click here to read: I’m Never Wrong
- Click here to read: Humility, A Foundational Quality
- Click here to read: Can Being Right be Wrong?
- Click here to read: At My Best by Choice
- “Great leaders don’t need to act tough. Their confidence and humility serve to underscore their toughness.” – Simon Sinek
- “Humility, like the darkness, reveals the heavenly lights.” – Henry David Thoreau
- “Humility is the most difficult of all virtues to achieve; nothing dies harder than the desire to think well of self.” – T.S. Eliot
- “Our ego hinders our ability to influence more than anything else under our control.” — Michael McKinney
- “Humility is the greatest quality that a man can have, and arrogance is undoubtedly the worst.” – Maulana W. Khan
- “He who tries to shine dims his own light.” – Lao Tzu