Humility, Confidence, and Arrogance

Humility and confidence are two of the most important character traits of an effective leader. Healthy humility and confidence based on reality are both important in building a relationship of influence. The more complete our humility and confidence, the better will be our ability to influence as a leader. What does not fit as a part of leadership is the character trait of arrogance, which is opposite of humility and confidence.

Humility is not meekness or weakness. It is not a low view of oneself, but rather a low view of one’s importance relative to other people. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines humility as “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people.” Healthy humility is a character trait that is built upon the character value of believing in the importance of every person. Leadership is influence and influence is built upon relationships. William James said that “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” This healthy humility invites the other person into relationship because the value that is placed on the other person is evident. Healthy humility then draws people into relationship where they feel valued and appreciated and therefore open to the influence of leadership.

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Confidence is not pride or arrogance. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines confidence as “a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something.” It is the self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities. Healthy or well-placed confidence is based on a firm grip on reality, the self-awareness of clearly understanding one’s capabilities as well as strengths and weaknesses. Confidence is not based on the magnitude of our abilities but on the accuracy of our self-awareness. This confidence shows up in the leadership relationship as strength or self-assurance upon which people can rely. This strength or confidence also draws people into relationship because they see the strength and feel able to trust it.

Humility and confidence have a positive relationship with each other. These two character traits have no need to be balanced because by nature they balance each other. With a clear understanding of our capabilities and our strengths and weaknesses, we can be comfortable with who we are and what we are able to do. Therefore, with strong confidence we are able to be humble, valuing those around us for what they can contribute. If we truly are humble and place high value in others, we can be secure in our own capabilities, knowing that we have no need to outshine others or puff ourselves up.

Arrogance is also a character trait, although not an attractive one in leadership. Arrogance is largely the result of not having healthy humility or of not having confidence based on reality. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines arrogance as “an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.” In other words, arrogance is an attitude of self-importance or pride. Where humility is based on a belief in the importance of others, arrogance is based on a belief in the importance of self, polar opposites in attitude. Arrogance can often be the result of an effort to compensate either for a lack of capability or a lack of confidence. Without confidence, a person could feel the need to puff oneself up and pretend to be superior or arrogant.

Where humility and confidence draw those around us into a relationship where we are able to influence, arrogance has the opposite effect. Arrogance creates a lack of trust and respect, driving people away from relationship, undermining the potential for influencing as a leader. Thus there is no room for arrogance in effective leadership.

How do we build healthy humility and confidence based on reality? Growing humility is a matter of character growth, building our belief in the value of other people and coming to terms with a lower level of self-importance relative to others. Growing in confidence is a matter of further developing our own self-awareness and self-acceptance. Character growth is not a matter of learning a new skill but is a matter of retraining our brain to incorporate new values and traits into the way that we think and behave.

Do you possess healthy humility and confidence rooted in reality? Are you growing in character?

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