Confident Humility

I recently devoured the book Think Again by Adam Grant. (Shoutout to The Legacy Center Book club for this great selection!) Think Again holds so many great takeaways that I nearly exhausted a new highlighter trying to remember all the nuggets of knowledge. (Yes, I am one of those people who read actual, hardcover books.) I’ll warn you though, there were parts of this book that I didn’t like.  Maybe because it stretched me in ways I hadn’t been challenged before, or because it pushed me to rethink areas that frankly, I didn’t want to. Whatever the case, the good outweighed the uncomfortable and I feel compelled to share one of the topics that resonated with me on a deep level.  The idea of Confident Humility.   

Let’s break it down.  What is confidence? At its root – it’s defined as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities”.  So basically, how much you believe in your ability to achieve a goal. The second half of this concept focuses on humility… specifically, Intellectual Humility – or “Knowing what we don’t know”.   When you combine these two seemingly contradictory concepts, you end with a leadership trait that propels leaders drastically ahead of their peers in both performance (results) and appreciation from their teams. Adam Grant defined Confident Humility as– 

Having faith in our capability while appreciating that we may not have the right solution or even be addressing the right problem. That gives us enough doubt to reexamine our old knowledge and enough confidence to pursue new insights.

Can you imagine having a leader like this? Have you ever worked for a leader like this?  Someone who is comfortable, even in their leadership role, admitting that they don’t know everything. Someone who radiates confidence in their abilities to lead or execute, all while admitting that they don’t have all the answers, so they intentionally create space for others to speak up and provide solutions.  Someone with the self-awareness to operate with the growth mindset of a lifelong learner, and also be an efficient and effective decision-maker.  Who wouldn’t want to ‘fall in line’ under an individual like that?  (Check out the attached image created by TechTello for more descriptors of what a leader who demonstrates confident humility looks like.)

In rigorous studies of leadership effectiveness across the United States and China, the most productive and innovative teams …(have leaders who) score high in both confidence and humility.  Although they have faith in their strengths, they’re also keenly aware of their weaknesses. (Think Again)

Employees want to follow someone who exhibits confidence, and they want to emulate someone who displays humility. Confidence begats followers -humility creates disciples. You need both to become a successful leader. With that line of thought, Confident Humility is a trait that leaders should shift their attention to. It allows room for them to shine and showcase their strengths, as well as display vulnerability (it’s not a dirty word!) in letting others, even those with opposing views, share their insights.  The result – an exponentially better outcome on any initiative that is approached with this mindset.  When you can rely on team members to step up and stand out in their strengths and defer to others without shame or insult when it’s a weaker area or an unknown / unexperienced concept, the magic of true teamwork is unleashed. 

And do you know the most encouraging part about this concept?  Confident humility can be TAUGHT!  As a leader, you can work to strengthen this muscle personally and as you model the concept, build an inclusive team who will act with confidence but not arrogance!

I love how Vinita Bansal summed it up: “Confident humility is the confidence in a leader’s ability to make the right decision while acknowledging that they need others to do it right. It’s knowing what they don’t know and having trust in what they do. It’s having faith in their strengths, while also being aware of their weaknesses.”  

I hope you are as inspired and curious about Confident Humility and how to do well, as I was when I first heard the term.  If you’d like to learn more – or want to see how The LEGACY Center can bring this concept to your leadership team – don’t hesitate to reach out!   

Cheers, 

Laurel