Confidence & Humility – Striking the Right Balance


“In the end, the less time we spend protecting our own value, the more time we can spend creating value in the world”. 

Tony Schwartz      

Each time I think I have finally figured out this whole “life thing”, I’m conveniently reminded that I have much to learn and plenty of room to grow.

My current travails in my Executive MBA (EMBA) program have reminded me that not everything comes easy.  One class in particular requires more study out of me than others.  In my EMBA small group which is comprised of a physician, fundraising executive and entrepreneur,  each classmate has performed better than me during certain working group sessions.   And while something of this nature may seem petty  in the grand scheme of things, as leaders its easy to fall into a trap of believing that we should succeed at everything we do – no matter how small or unimportant the challenge.  What’s more, when we don’t immediately succeed, we shut down and exert a false sense of confidence that masks our insecurities.  Indeed, many conventional notions of leadership actually reinforce these outdated understandings of leadership.  This type of leadership lionizes masculine brashness and unbridled decisiveness at the expense of self inquiry and the ability to acknowledge error.

This had me thinking  – how do we strike the right balance between a reasonable, justified level of self-assuredness while remaining open to criticism, failure, and constructive support?  As many of us get older and ascend to positions of greater authority, it can be increasingly difficult to remain humble.  It can become easy to give up on humility.  We quickly put up false protective barriers that shield outside ideas that conflict with our own.

How do we design mechanisms in our own lives that allow us to regularly reflect, seek input, and correct course when we fail?  And how we do we allow ourselves to accept failure  without feeling intrinsically inadequate?

Leadership undoubtedly demands a healthy level of measured confidence. Those being led won’t follow a leader that lacks the credibility that comes from earned self-assuredness.  However, effective leaders accept their inevitable weaknesses and find ways to improve upon them.  They admit error and seek the counsel of trusted agents.

Strong leaders never stop learning because they never have all the answers.


I’ve posted two articles on these topics so that you may consider them in greater depth.  I hope that you find both informative and useful as part of your own leadership journey.

1)NY Times – Tony Schwartz,

2) Harvard Business Review – Jeanine Prime & Elizabeth Salib,