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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #174: A Leader’s Strength: Balancing Confidence with Humility

February 10, 2022
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #174: A Leader’s Strength: Balancing Confidence with Humility

Are you confident and humble? It’s a tough combination for many leaders. Today Perry and Chris talk about one of Tim Elmore’s Eight Paradoxes of Great Leadership: balancing confidence with humility.

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Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley:    Welcome to The John Maxwell executive leadership podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley at John Maxwell, facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, vice president with John Maxwell company. Welcome, and thank you for joining. Want to let you know that if you want to download the learner guide that Perry has created for today’s lesson, you want to learn more about how even just we’re impacting cultures of organizations around the world with training consulting or coaching to visit And we have a form there. If you’ll fill that out, our team will follow back up with you.

I also want to give you my Twitter handle feed. You can tell I’m a little bit older. Yeah. Is that what it is? Perry?

Perry Holley:    I think so.

Chris Goede:     Are you older than me? should have called my kids on that one, but @Chris_Goede, G-O-E-D-E and there we’re going to be pushing out additional information and leadership tips, thoughts we’d love for you to follow there. Well, today’s topic is entitled a leader’s strength, balancing confidence with humility. I know a lot of leaders that have one or the other. We’re not going to talk about that as we start right now, but I recognize this as a book that you love. I’m in the process of reading right now and a good friend of ours, Tim Elmore, a book called Eight Paradoxes of Great Leadership.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. Brand new just out. And Tim Elmore has written this. Got a great background with John Maxwell and great background in leadership and has these eight paradoxes. They’re all fantastic. But I was taken by number one, the first one in the out the door about can you be confident and humble at the same time? It doesn’t sound like they go together.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    But leading today really requires you to combine the two. And Tim makes a great case for that. So I thought we’d talk about it a bit here and get some of the truth out on, can You do both?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. And this has been my favorite chapter that Tim dives into in the book. And so I just encourage you read more than the first chapter, but it’s really good. I think team members that we are working with on a daily basis, man they need us to inspire them with our confidence. We’ve got to be very clear and confident, but too much confidence can be perceived as arrogance, which is a big turnoff to a lot of our team members.

And so we must have a teachable spirit. We must be transparent. We must stay vulnerable in what’s going on. We don’t need to be faking knowledge. We’ve talked a lot about, we don’t need to be the smartest person in the room. We just got to have a room and a team of smart people and trust them, let them do their job. And I think if we are humble and confident, then we really have, I believe self-awareness and we’re comfortable in our own skin, no matter what the situation is, we don’t need to be pretending that we’re someone else in a meeting, in a situation, in an opportunity, whatever it is. And so there are leaders that man I’ve seen some of their confidence really blind their ability to really lead successfully and it’s an issue.

Perry Holley:    It is. Tim talks about, I thought it was funny, it was really odd we always talk about in the five levels at level three, you want to build John call to law, big Mo you want to have momentum and Tim made a comment that he feels that confidence and humility together create this momentum. I hadn’t really considered that. Are we always talking about how important momentum is and how we build it? Well, me being the leader, having a great confidence insure about what I’m doing, but also having the humility to know that I may be other things I don’t know. And how can I bring others into it? I made a list from Tim’s writing about comparing both. And so I’ll take the humility side. what if you take the confidence side, but tell us about Confidence.

Chris Goede:     Listeners, I’m not going to tell you what Perry wrote in these notes right here about me taking this confidence side. No. Yeah. So great. So what I’ll do is this is a chart from Tim.

Perry Holley:    Yeah.

Chris Goede:     And I’ll say what it looks like from the confidence side, and then you’ll give us from the humility side. So there’s five of them. The first one is makes leadership believable. That’s if you’re confident, you’re making leadership believable.

Perry Holley:    And he says that if you’re humble, it makes confidence believable. I love that. Thinking that you’re demonstrating your confidence, but your humility is what makes it believable.

Chris Goede:     That’s what makes it believable. You got to have it. Second one for confidence is communicates energy and certainty.

Perry Holley:    And if you add humility to that, you definitely want energy and uncertainty, but if you add humility, then you’re communicating trustworthiness.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    It goes along with that, I think. Okay. How important is that?

Chris Goede:     So here’s what I’ve thought about after the first two, if we wouldn’t have had, or if you don’t have the humility or the humble side of what you’re saying, what it would really be like to be under the leadership of just a total confident person.

Perry Holley:    Right.

Chris Goede:     Right? So it’s so important. What he’s bringing out here is you got to have both sides. Number three, he says fosters creativity and participation, if you’re a confident leader,

Perry Holley:    And if you add humility to that, it fosters authenticity and participation. So you have creativity and participation with authenticity and participation. I notice that if you’re a confident and humble, people want to participate.

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Chris Goede:     Yeah. That’s good. Number four, confident leader causes team members to be passionate it’s contagious.

Perry Holley:    It is contagious. And if we add humility to that, it causes team members to be loyal. You’re thinking, well, if I want my team members to be passionate and loyal, I need to have a little bit of both of these.

Chris Goede:     Love it. And finally, under confidence, it is contagious in others.

Perry Holley:    And with humility, it’s contagious in others.

Chris Goede:     I love it. You got to have both of them.

Perry Holley:    You do. Both of those people will follow what they see in that.

Chris Goede:     That’s good.

Well, let’s dive in and let’s look at some practical ways that actually Tim suggests in the book for leaders to be both confident and humble. The first one that we want to share with you is when a decision making meetings or in a decision making meeting, right. That you argue as if you believe you are right. But listen as if you believe you are wrong.

Perry Holley:    Yeah.

Chris Goede:     Unpack that a little bit more.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. Love that. So you think about if you’re just a confident, without humility.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    You just argue like, you’re right. Somebody says something, you push back. I’m coaching the guy now, he says, I really got to stop. They tell me that I push back on everything. I said, do you? He goes, yeah. But I think I have something to add to everything I said, well, and that this came up to me. So if I had a little humility, it’s okay to argue as if you’re right. But, if you had the humility, you also listen.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    To what I don’t know. What is it I don’t know?. I may be wrong. I go on stage and talk all over the world and I’m confident that I’m a subject matter expert and I’m probably the most prepared person in the room, but I’m also completely prepared that I’m wrong.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    And somebody in here knows more than me and I could learn something. To me, that’s what this, as a leader, having that confidence and humility, when I go into the room.

Chris Goede:     That’s good.

Perry Holley:    Another one he said was remain teachable in new context, especially with those on your team. Don’t let your confidence prevent you from improving your own ideas. How do you see that one?

Chris Goede:     In his book I love it. And you and I both have read this book as well. The ride of a lifetime basically is where he is pulling this from the story of Bob Iger and the Disney CEO and where he came from and the rooms and the meetings that he was going into, he needed to be teachable. And he has this quote in there in his book that I love. It says your inexperience can’t be an excuse for failure. So don’t go in and not be teachable because then you’re going to end up failing because of the inexperience you don’t need. You don’t need to know it all.

Perry Holley:    Iger was known for saying, I don’t know. I haven’t tell me what you know.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. Tell me more, love it. Tell me more. The third point here is don’t confuse confidence with certainty.

Perry Holley:    Yeah.

Chris Goede:     You’ll frequently have to take action without certainty, even when uncertain remain clear and transparent.

Perry Holley:    Yeah.

So you think about being confident that you seem very certain about things. You’re just very certain and that doesn’t breed a lot of confidence in others that you just think you know all the answers you’ve seen it all to do that. So when you’re uncertain, maybe the Iger is a good one. He was uncertain, but he remained clear and transparent. I don’t know, what I don’t know.

Chris Goede:     That’s right.

Perry Holley:    I’ve never done this before. I’m not in the creative business. I was doing something else. So what do I need to know here? So he was very transparent and a little bit vulnerable.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    In doing that.

Chris Goede:     And you may be as leaders, you may be certain about where you want to go, where you need to go, where the shift in the organization needs to happen. But man there’s going to be uncertainty around the how, and that’s where that teachability has to come in.

Perry Holley:    The next one Tim brought up, I think a lot of leaders, when they think of humility, they struggle with this one, but they let humility says, don’t let humility become sheepishness.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.Perry Holley:    Becoming preoccupied with our own weaknesses.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    I hate to see that in someone.

Chris Goede:     No. Yeah. I totally agree with you. We just had a conversation with a leader couple days ago and it was like, Hey, we don’t need you to verbalize this in your word sheepishness. Right? We know there’s humility there. So you don’t need to be communicating that because that’s going to be a detriment to those that you are leaving. Right? And so I pulled out a couple of things. Again, I love the book as well in there, he says, be convinced and convicted. Right. Be convinced and convicted. If you communicate sheepishness it may be perceived that you don’t believe in yourself.

Perry Holley:    Right.

Chris Goede:     And then your people won’t, which makes my point of the conversation we were having.

Perry Holley:    Can we talk about Rick Warren teaching his famous definition of humility is not thinking less of yourself.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    Is thinking of yourself less. And I always love that to thinking, if you see someone that’s sheepish on this is that they’re thinking less of themselves.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    And then you shouldn’t be doing that.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Well, number five, when tempted to boast about what you have achieved instantly turn your focus to a team member and brag about them, let someone else do your boasting.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. If you think about being all confidence, no humility. You’re pretty much boasting on yourself. You’re the one that’s talking about that. But if you have that balance of humility, it’s cool to let other people talk about you. You talk about other people.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    And you keep bringing it back to the team.

Chris Goede:     Absolutely.

Perry Holley:    I think the big learning for me here was humility does not have to be weakness. Remarkable leaders are strong and confident. They’re secure enough to see beyond themselves. And I love that humility. They’re not worried about their image. They know their value, they’re confident then who they are. They know it isn’t about them. They make it about others. They really have nothing to prove. They’re here, they’re at the table, they have that confidence that air about them. And the mission is bigger than they are. And they can humbly come into that mission. So it’s really great lesson.

Chris Goede:     Well, as I wrap up for us today, here’s a couple of key takeaways for you. The first one is, continue to ask a lot of questions. It is disarming to most team members at all levels when you are just asking questions and not arguing that you’re right and asking questions and not listening, making sure that you are stating your case, what you might believe. Right. But you’re asking questions to absorb and really listening what you’re hearing. The other two things that I wrote down here was that I really believe now more than ever with the culture that we’re building organizations, the demographic of the people that are coming up in our organizations, there are educated team members that desire and often are demanding humility as a leader. You may have been in the organization 35 years, and you may think that your stuff doesn’t stink, but man, you better be thinking about from a humility.

You may have all the answers and you may know where the dead bodys are buried and that’s all great. But you need to be thinking about and checking where your humility is. And then the last thing I wrote down was confidence plus humility furnishes the energy of certainty and the flexibility of teachability. Pull that out of the book that Tim had there right now, what I want you to really take away out of that point is having that confidence gives you the energy of certainty, but also you got to have the flexibility to be teachable in everything that you’re doing as a leader.

Perry Holley:    Just think of that quote. And the other half of that, I just taught it yesterday with a group that confidence without humility, I breached distrust that people, you just can’t be all great. You can’t be all there. They want to know that humility brings that piece of vulnerability.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    To do that. Fantastic. Well thank you for joining us. And again, as Chris reminded you can learn about the five levels, 360 leader, other offerings we have, you can leave a comment or a question for us. You can also download the learner guide all that at, as always, we’re grateful. You’d spend this time with us. That’s all today from the John Maxwell executive leadership podcast.

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