How To Retool Your Leadership Skills With Confidence and Humility

When it comes to leadership, inspiration and determination go hand in hand. Women CEOs of some of the biggest corporations around have put both to great use with how they established themselves to provide leadership to their organizations.

Yahoo has tasked Marissa Mayer’s inspiration to lead the lagging Yahoo enterprise back to prominence.  I’ll always remember her advice at the 2011 Fortune Most Powerful Women dinner, “When you do something you’re not ready to do, that’s when you push yourself and you grow.” With the news of  Marillyn Hewson’s  position atop Lockheed Martin, the number of women CEOs in corporate America strengthens to 21.  And whether it’s Hewson, Mayer, Rometty, Woertz  or the other women CEOs making waves, there’s no shortage of inspiration and determination to go around.

Here are a few ways to put your inspiration and determination to good use and sharpen your leadership skills –  with a dash of confidence and sprinkle of humility.

Yearn to Learn More

Don’t settle for being content with whatever role you hold in business. By content, I don’t mean being happy with the position you hold – CEO, V.P., Executive Manager, or Assistant Manager, it doesn’t matter. I’m talking about reaching higher and wanting to learn more about what new marketing practices await or how to top the best motivational speakers out there, or how to think more creatively. There’s so much to attain.  Tell yourself you haven’t mastered your role and that it’s always an evolution.

Trepidation Just Asks For More Quicksand

Stop second-guessing yourself and making only timid attempts to give your business a swift kick in the rear. Basically, any attempts to avoid grabbing the limelight and put it to good use can slow down the progress of your business and shackle the truest sense of your leadership.

Your employees beneath you are begging for direction in some form.  And a timely assertion, no less.  The moment you start pulling in the reins of your decision-making because you have shreds of doubt about how it might be perceived by others is the moment your confidence begins to drain, and employee motivation may wane soon after.

Instead, lead with confidence and enthusiasm at every turn.  Be that beacon that steers your employee’s ship to an ocean of possibilities, rather than guides them toward the rocks.

Lead With Humility

Now I know what you may be thinking.  I just said to assert yourself on a moment’s notice just then, so why be humble if some people think that as a sign of weakness?  I’ll tell you why with a true story that still continues to this day.

It’s about a friend of mine who holds a V.P. position of a very successful, Fortune 500 software company.  And a good part of her job requires hiring high-level management roles that demand a ton and pay handsomely.  There are numerous interviews, sit-downs, performance reviews and so forth, and the process as a whole can take a while.  Yet, the one determining trait I always came away with was how she would end every interview with the potential hire:

Do you feel lucky?

If answered no, the person wasn’t considered for the job.  It wasn’t because she had bad experiences around boastful people, it’s beca

use she demanded a humble approach to the role.  Because if you can’t feel lucky for every networking opportunity you received in life, or how all your hard work and all the hoops jumped through led to this position, at this very time…then it’s a trait that may not mesh well in the end with the employees you’re responsible for.

Open The Doors of Creative Expression

Creative expression in business is a plus with every employee, whether they’re entry-level or higher up the chain.  Not to use the oft-repeated buzzword of “thinking outside the box” (because that’s been played out far too long), but creative mojo leads to innovative thinking, better communication towards problem-solving and births new marketing foundations and approaches to projects.

As a leader, you should welcome all questions and thoughts from your employees, no matter how small or obscure the idea may seem.  Constructive criticism should – and often does – lead to a consensus that all levels of employees can eventually build upon.  Invite the best from your employees at every turn, and the leadership commanded from that simple request can grow to great heights.

And By Golly, Find Time For Yourself!

I was reading through an exceptional op-ed on the Harvard Business Review from Lauren Stiller Rikleen on U.S. competitiveness from a global perspective in relation to work-life balance.  In it, she notes that the U.S. ranks 17th worldwide in work-life policies, with many of the leading countries offering many supportive measures of a well-earned break – whether it’s maternity leave or something more – for employees.  Multiple studies concluded that, through flexible policies for businesses and their employees, loyalty (and you could argue, productivity) to the company was very high.

And really, the work-life balance dilemma is a tricky issue to master for some.  Hours in the office can pile up quickly with more responsibilities to shoulder.  Job security fears creep in for a lot of people, and loss of productivity settles in for the rest.  And this isn’t to say you must immediately go into work tomorrow and rewrite the book on holiday vacations, paid-time off and other novelties for your staff.  That’s to the discretion of your business and what you think is best.

Rather, this is about viewing the work-life balance position with more focus, both to yourself and to your employees.  Regardless of how committed you think you are by working 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week, the need to recharge your batteries should be a priority somewhere along the way.  A confident leader needs their R & R, too.

Final Thoughts

No amount of reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War in relation to business leadership can justify real-world business proceedings to the fullest extent.  You can be confident without self-help books, without having to rule the office with an “iron fist” (another poor buzzword). Lead by example, lead with quiet confidence and create an open-ended approach to business that your employees can follow with the same grace and poise you preach.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

About the author:  Miranda Darrow is a freelance writer and consultant for ej4, an eLearning company that creates concise training videos to help increase employee knowledge in the workplace, educate HR departments and help business structure align and shine.  You can follow them on Twitter for more information.


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1 Comment

PM Hut

Marissa Mayer has done miracles for Yahoo. It has turned the company upside down and put it on the right track again.

Yahoo’s stock has doubled from when she took over last year – which is phenomenal since Yahoo was literally dying as a company.

I guess her leadership skills as well as her organizational skills are outstanding.

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