The Confidence of Humility

Written by lewsauder

November 17, 2017

Confidence of Humility

Think of the greatest leaders you’ve ever worked for or admired. There are many traits that may have inspired you. Confidence was likely one of them. But were they so confident that they demonstrated the confidence of humility?

Johnny Carson was known as the King of Late Night. Before The Late Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live. He was not only the host of the Tonight Show. He defined the genre.

In today’s late night world, when the host is off, a repeat is shown. When Johnny Carson was off, he would designate a guest host. Many stars, including Jerry Lewis, Joan Rivers and Jay Leno, would “guest host” when Johnny was off.

He had the confidence of humility to know that no matter who stood in for him, no one would truly replace him. He preferred that his audience have fresh, new entertainment over something they had already seen.

Confidence of humility in The Presidency

Our 34th president, Dwight Eisenhower had a comparable management style. He allowed people to have heated arguments in his staff meetings. He wanted to hear dissenting opinions, even when they disagreed with Eisenhower himself. He was more interested in getting to the right answer than in always being right.

Contrast that with Richard Nixon’s management style. Eisenhower’s Vice President became president eight years later. Nixon did not allow this kind of banter and disagreement. He was much more insecure. He felt that to convey confidence, he need to be the one that was right.

Nixon’s decision needed to be the winner in the end. He expected everyone to agree with him as a matter of loyalty. In the end, it was his insecurity and paranoia that led to his downfall. He is the only president in U.S. history to resign.

Confidence of humility in project management

Project managers play a leadership role that requires the confidence of humility. Some project managers insecurely need to be the one that always has the right answer. If there is dispute among the team, this type of project manager is insulted.

“How dare you question my authority?” they may ask. They have worked their way up the ladder to become a project manager. They have served in lower roles and know all there is to know about it. Why would someone have the audacity to disagree with them. How could they possibly question their authority?

Unfortunately, that is not what strong leadership is about. It is also not a display of confidence. The confidence of humility is about trusting the judgement of the people on your team. It is the art of facilitating the best resolution to a problem, regardless of who thinks of it.

An insecure leader fears that giving credit to their team members may make people question the leader’s ability. A leader with the confidence of humility knows that giving other people credit for the team’s success will breed more success. Ultimately, that is the criteria on which a leader is judged.

And ultimately, a leader with the confidence of humility will achieve more success than the leader who always needs to be right and always claims credit for success.


Confidence is a critical aspect in leadership. Leaders who lack confidence compensate for it by demonstrating arrogance. They have a need to be right at all costs. When ideas come from other team members, their insecure need will find reasons why other ideas are not as good.

Strong and confident leaders show the humility to allow others to be right. The goal of a leader with the confidence of humility is to come to the best solution for the organization. It doesn’t matter whose idea it is.

As a leader, do you have the confidence of humility?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of Ambro at

Lew’s Books at Amazon:

Project Management 101
Consulting 101
The Reluctant Mentor

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