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Confidence vs Arrogance: Why Humility is Key for Leaders 

 February 3, 2024

By  Evan

In this article, we’ll take a look at confidence vs arrogance. Confidence is an important quality of effective leadership, but arrogant leaders can cause more problems than they solve.

If you want to become a more confident leader, but avoid being an arrogant leader, than humility is the key.

Humility is one of my core values – it’s one of the reasons this site is called Leader’s Go Last. For years, however, I misunderstood the relationship between humility and confidence.

In an effort to remain humble, I never developed or demonstrated confidence in certain areas because I never wanted to come across as arrogant.

Confidence vs arrogance meaning

Unfortunately, avoiding confidence slowed me down in my career.

I once had a performance review at work – I received mostly good marks and was hoping for a promotion, but the promotion didn’t happen. I asked what I could do differently, and the answer was effectively, “if you want to lead more people, you need to be more confident, clear, and direct in your management.”

Instead of being clear with people by saying, “I need you to own this” or “that’s a great idea – can you make it happen?” I would say things like, “do you think it would be possible maybe for you to help with this but if not I can help too and maybe we can make it happen if you think it’s a good idea?”

I wanted to come across as humble, but really I just came across as insecure. I worried too much about people liking me and didn’t always trust myself.

Humility vs Insecurity

A few weeks ago I had an epiphany in the grocery store. I was listening to a podcast with Crawford Lorrits,  and something he said really helped me understand the relationship between humility and confidence. Here’s what it was:

“You cannot truly be humble without being truly confident. Confidence is a prerequisite to humility…sometimes what we pass off as humility is just low self-esteem.”

Loritts went on to provide the most perfect example from Philippians 2 (ESV), which says in verses 5-7,

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

Jesus had an unlimited supply of confidence – he knew who he was. He was equal with God and in the very form of God, and yet he set is all aside to take on the form of a servant. If you don’t have confidence, then you don’t have anything to set aside or use to help other people.

I realized that I didn’t have to feel bad about being confident. In fact, confidence is a very good thing and essential for being an effective leader. When you’re confident in something, you are better equipped to serve others because you know what is needed and how to make it happen.

If humility without confidence leads to low self-esteem and insecurity, what happens when you get confidence without any humility?

Confidence vs Arrogance

I was looking at different definitions of confidence and one of my favorites actually came from Kids Health:

“Confidence means feeling sure of yourself and your abilities — not in an arrogant way, but in a realistic, secure way. Confidence isn’t about feeling superior to others. It’s a quiet inner knowledge that you’re capable.”

Put simply, confident people feel sure about their knowledge or their abilities. They’re honest with themselves, and they know where they stand. They won’t be confident in everything, of course, but they’ll know their strengths and be aware of their weaknesses.

Confidence vs arrogance - crowning yourself

What is the difference between confidence and arrogance?

Rather than having an honest opinion of their capabilities, arrogance tends to come from inflating one’s own self-worth or importance. Arrogant people think they are better than others, and there is a good chance they want you to know it. Rather than using their gifts to serve others, they use those gifts to serve themselves.

What is the key to remaining confident without drifting towards arrogance? Humility.

It is a humility that comes from knowing where your strength and your self-worth comes from.

If you know you are a child of God, if you know that He has gifted you and that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, then you don’t need others to give you their approval. Your worth doesn’t have to come from external sources like people at work or your neighbors, because your worth comes from something far more powerful and eternal.

And when you’re self-worth comes from your Maker, it’s almost impossible to not act with humility. When you remember how Christ made himself a servant for you, it becomes much easier to become a servant for others.

7 Practical Ways to Grow Confidence

If you would like to build your confidence and become a better servant leader, then here are a few quick ideas:

  1. Live life at the feet of Jesus: The closer you are to God, the greater your confidence will be. Study His Word, meditate on it day and night (this was the key for Joshua to be “strong and courageous” in Joshua 1), and spend time in prayer.
  2. Remind yourself of the truth: The things we think about ourselves matter, and we need to remind ourselves of the truth. Humble confidence means knowing your capabilities and your weaknesses, and it means knowing that God is ultimately in control.
  3. Repetition: The more you do something, the more you will grow in confidence. This can be for simple tasks like shooting a free throw in basketball, or advanced and challenging things like hosting an event with thousands of people. Whatever you do, keep doing it to build your confidence.
  4. Work with a Coach: The best athletes in the world still work with coaches to get better at things. You can do the same – find someone who can challenge you, provide another perspective, and help you get better.
  5. Take some risks: Sometimes you need to take risks – these help you grow in multiple ways. If you take a risk and you’re successful, than you will have expanded your capabilities and confidence. If you take a risk and fail, then you will discover that you can get back up again and keep going.
  6. Prepare: I love improvising, and I’m fairly good at public speaking. I can guarantee you, however, that I always do better and speak with greater confidence when I have prepared well. Whatever you need to do, preparing in advance will give you greater confidence.
  7. Focus: I’m not a good singer, and I’m ok with that. Instead of trying to grow my confidence in areas that I’m bad or even average, I try to focus on getting better at the things I’m already good at. It’s much better to build confidence in 2-3 skills, than to have low confidence and poor performance in a bunch of areas.

It’s your turn: What are some effective strategies you have used to grow your confidence? How do you see the relationships of confidence vs arrogance and humility vs insecurity?

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  1. “You cannot truly be humble without being truly confident. Confidence is a prerequisite to humility…sometimes what we pass off as humility is just low self-esteem.” This helps me. Thank you.
    I’m tracking with you as I grew up in a more passive aggressive family dynamic, which became my definition of humility. I’m grateful for your lesson today.

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