Confident Humility

Mar 09, 2021

Confident humility is a characteristic described by Adam Grant in his new book, "Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know". Grant writes, "The most effective leaders score high in both confidence and humility. Although they have faith in their strengths, they're also keenly aware of their weaknesses." Yes! This kind of leadership is remarkable because it fosters two things that are vital to any organization: community and innovation.

Leaders with confident humility foster community. Simultaneously they send signals that say, "I'm here for you, and together we can succeed," and, "I need you and I can't get there on my own." These two signals together create interdependence and unity. Confident humility also fosters innovation. It invites people in, giving them permission to offer a new perspective, disagree, take risks, experiment, or try something new.

Interested in growing in your confident humility as a leader? Here are two ways:

  1. Build your identity on a firm foundation. Expertise, past accomplishment, or prestige fade quickly in our dynamic world. On the other hand, things like healthy relational habits, commitment to life-long learning, good work ethic, and willingness to serve others never go out of style. Every organization needs leadership rooted in these timeless values.
  2. Remind yourself how much you don't know. I like to read articles that fall way outside my area of expertise - things like the physics of black holes or how a processor works. I retain very little of it, not even enough to sound interesting at a party, but that's not the point. This exercise highlights that there are many, many topics I know nothing about. It also reminds me that there is plenty I don't know about topics I do know something about.  When we are honest about how much we don't know, we are primed to be good listeners who are genuinely interested in the ideas and perspectives of others.

As a fresh college graduate, I flew to Chicago for training at the US headquarters of Siemens Building Technologies, the company I was working for at the time. I had the opportunity to have lunch with one of the Senior Vice Presidents while I was there, and to this day I remember how kind, encouraging, and present he was. This senior leader was genuinely interested in my perspective. I would not have called it confident humility back then but it's exactly what it was. You know this kind of remarkable leadership when you experience it, as it's marked by a peaceful presence and open curiosity that invites you in, believing we are better together. Isn't that the sort of leadership we could use more of in this world? It's the kind of leader I know you can be. Drop me an email and let's begin working together. 

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