Back in the day, the archetype of a great leader was bold, brave, confident, directing, in charge. Yet, here in the 21st century we hear that people thrive and perform better when they have a leader who is kind, humble, more human. But which is best?
The truth is both. The best leaders need the self-assurance and confidence in themselves, in their purpose and mission, but also know that they don’t have all of the answers and need great people around them, teams, to really succeed. When you trust yourself and know your strengths and your limits, then others trust you. You show up with integrity. This is an essential leadership basic if you want to create followership.
What’s the difference between self-doubt and self-assurance?
The best leaders I know have both. It’s like the same coin, but different sides.
– Can I do this?
– Do I know what I am doing?
– Am I being realistic?
Humble is like a sense check and is a positive dose of realism. Self-doubt on the other hand can be a little cruel if self-assurance is lacking. It can show up as an imposter, a saboteur or gremlin in your mind.
Self doubt might say:
– You cant do this?
– You don’t really know what you are doing?
– You aren’t being realistic?
Notice how you talk to yourself. It will give you guidance about whether you are in a humble or doubting mindset. Notice whether you are factually assessing the situation or if your inner belief system is bullying you.
Doubting yourself means testing assumptions. It means before you take bold action, you take a step back and assess, reflect, speak to others, test the validity of your thinking. It is rational and strategic.
Was that the right decision?
Could I have phrased that better?
Is there a better plan?
Have I thought of all perspectives and ideas?
Did I use others as a sounding board?
This kind of reflective analysis is a valuable and necessary part of good leadership.
Self assurance without being humble might lead you to make decisions independently, get attached to the first solution, or become overly confident and miss some obvious risks or alternatives.
Self assurance is having confidence in your abilities, and sometimes blame others when things go wrong or when mistakes are made. The humble part of you helps you to stand in your limitations, owning them and knowing that it is OK to have imperfections and actually very healthy to need people around you to help you perform better.
We all want to trust that our leaders know where they are leading us. We want to have confidence in them, their direction and vision. We want them to know their role, their strengths, limitations and capabilities. We trust that they trust themselves and reflect.
Humble asks: Am I capable of this work?
Assured says: Yes, and I have the right team in place to help me.
Humble asks: Can I do this job?
Assured says: Yes, and yet I can still learn more, be more and have room for growth.
Asking these questions is healthy if the responses that come back are truthful, motivating and grounding. If the honest answer is that you have limitations or don’t have all the answers, that gives you information to seek others, knowledge or development to help you fill the gaps.
When humble slips into dangerous self doubt telling you that you are stupid, lacking, unworthy, an imposter, that is when you need to pay attention. This danger zone can spiral you into destructive behaviours and erodes self-assurance.
The danger zone moves from trust to lies. It chips away at what is known to what is negatively imagined or believed.
Your self assurance erodes and you feel that you are a fraud, like you aren’t the real deal, a fake. There maybe no evidence to support this. It is a lie. But when you don’t trust yourself, no-one else will.
You might show up with bravado, blagging, pushing others, controlling, lying even. Your humility and vulnerability is what can save you.
When you trust yourself enough to say to your team, I don’t know the answer, what do you think? , then you are in humble mode. When you are vulnerable enough to say, I made a mistake, help me, Your team will trust you and support you. They will rise to the challenge.
It is was will make you a successful leader.
If you find yourself doubting yourself, lacking confidence or listening to your mean internal voice, catch it. Pay attention. Be conscious.
Ask yourself, is this true?
Focus on facts.
Practice humility, including others, and create a safe circle of people to bounce ideas off.