The problem with confidence is that it can very easily be misinterpreted by others as arrogance.
The problem with arrogance is that it can very easily be misinterpreted by ourselves as confidence.
Very few leaders face this conundrum with ease. On the one hand, you want to appear self-assured and strong. Admitting you’re wrong or giving someone else an edge in decision making can often be perceived as weak or indecisive. On the other hand, failing to appear human will cost you followers.
The fine line between these two points is what we refer to as the confidence conundrum. One among many that leaders of all sorts must face, this one is ingrained into a cultural psyche that likes our leaders strong, decisive, and to never back down.
A historical example comes to mind. On the eve of the thick fighting at Gettysburg in July 1863, newly appointed commanding General George Meade called a council of war that included his corps commanders and other senior officers of his army. On ground of their choosing, they resolved to stand and fight the invading army, a battle they ultimately won. What makes this episode remarkable is that Meade asked his generals whether they should stay and fight.
Leading military historians remain divided on whether this demonstrated good leadership, or a man unprepared to command. The answer is unimportant, but it does serve to illustrate the dilemma we as leaders in typically less severe circumstances must face.
We are not often asked to decide the fate of a nation. But the level of inclusion and collaboration with our teams can make a difference between being perceived as a good leader and a tyrant, or even just a know it all. If it is our ultimate goal as leaders to attract and retain followers, improving our influence so that they will help us to achieve a common vision, it is imperative that we find a balance between ruling the roost and providing a framework where shared ideas, shared risk, and shared reward are the norm. Doing so doesn’t make you weak. To the contrary it makes you the strongest type of leader possible – a humble leader.