Monday, December 13, 2010

Humble Confidence vs. Insecure Pride

Leaders have two seemingly-paradoxical postures they can lead from. The first is the paradox of insecure pride. The insecurity comes from a personal anxiety, a self-doubt that comes across as a deflated or detached leadership. It is feeling unsure about oneself and what you offer as a leader to others. Connected with this insecurity is pride, an inner desire to make oneself and one's agenda heard in order to compensate for the insecurity. Pride often comes out externally through our mouths, while insecurity hides itself in the internal reaches of our hearts.

Insecure pride can manifest itself in all kinds of ways:
  • Loudly and brashly sharing one's opinions in conversations in order to feel significant or heard.
  • Not inviting any input on decisions that affect multiple people; ignoring criticism or feedback, especially from peers.
  • Offering unsolicited input and advice, especially to other leaders, then being personally hurt or offended if they don't go with your idea.
  • Choosing not to speak up around other leaders due to an insecure fear of being wrong or uncertain.
  • Choosing not to speak up around other leaders due to a prideful smugness that says, "no one else here could understand my awesome ideas."
  • Storing up bitterness against those who don't think like you do; speaking of them sarcastically or negatively when they're not around.
  • Often makes comparisons between themselves and other leaders.
  • Knee-jerk reaction is self-preservation and defensiveness.
  • Failure is not an option.
There is a healthier alternative paradox in leadership: the paradox of humble confidence. Humility comes from a realistic view of oneself in light of the grace given us in Christ. The word originates from the Latin "humus," meaning "earth, dirt." It is knowing and embracing the reality that we are dust. Connected with humility is a confidence in one's vocational calling and identity. A confident leader finds their identity in Christ, seeing themselves as a child of God, deeply loved and called to His mission. We're loved dust. This Christ-based identity allows His love to foster a confidence in Him, knowing we are created in His image and any gifts, strength, or opportunities we have are a demonstration of His grace in our lives.

Humble confidence looks like this:
  • Quietly yet firmly sharing one's opinions when one discerns that they need to be shared for the benefit and encouragement of others and the accomplishment of the mission.
  • Inviting honest feedback and evaluation; willing to be held accountable.
  • Has a posture of listening and a desire to hear one's story; offering advice comes from a desire to encourage and strengthen others.
  • Choosing not to speak up around other leaders due to discerning spirit that is leading towards silence and contemplation in that moment.
  • Seeing the good in others, even ones who don't think like you, knowing they are created in the image of God; finding at least one thing to praise in another person.
  • Doesn't have time for comparisons due to an intense focus on the mission they feel called to pursue.
  • Knee-jerk reaction is self-sacrifice for the sake of others and the mission.
  • Failure is an opportunity for growth.
Insecure pride comes from trying to form my identity and calling in myself and by myself. Humble confidence comes from forming my identity and calling outside of myself in Christ.

If I'm honest, I know I'm plagued by insecure pride in my life and leadership. The only way out is repentance, a looking outside of myself for transformation and fixing my focus on Christ and His mission instead of my personal agenda or success.


  1. Great insight, caused me examine. Thank you!

  2. When I googled "confidence comes from humility" your site came up. I encountered this insight personally and wanted to see if anyone else shared this view. Thank you for confirming it!

    The realisation (and true inner belief, not just saying it while remaining unconvinced) that material success is not the measure of a man is, in my opinion, all the difference in the world between "humble confidence" and "insecure pride".

    "Insecure pride" comes about when one measures the value of others by their material success, and therefore also assumes that others measure his personal value by material success. This links material success directly to his self-esteem.

    This leads to failure not being an option, because failure in his opinion brings him down to the level of the very people he has been criticising so openly. It makes him look like a hypocrite who criticises everyone but is the same (or worse) himself.

    This great fear of failure can be crippling, and cause a self-fufilling prophecy of even further failures. Rare successes are trumpeted ever-louder, but with it comes an even greater fear of failure after that.

    I used to rank the four along a continuous spectrum in this order: insecurity, humility, confidence, arrogance (what you call pride, but I think arrogance is a more appropriate term.) Only recently have I realised (aged 17) that insecurity and arrogance go hand in hand, and humility with confidence.

    Thank you for your article!

  3. Wow! I am in the process of a writing a blog about my own pride. I was trying to find an image that might work and that led me here. Thank you. I need to remember to trust those around me enough to be humble with them.