7 Characteristics of Humble Confident Leaders


Confidence is important for leaders, but according to Kay Kotan and Phil Schroeder, confidence can easily tilt toward arrogance. They outline seven characteristics, such as vulnerability, integrity, and inclusiveness, that promote a balanced, humble confidence.

Demonstrating confidence is a positive and much needed leadership trait. Confident leaders are convicted to lead towards the mission and vision. They are surrounded with people who have faith, trust, credence, and belief in their leadership. People who work with confident leaders find the leader to be self-assured, poised, courageous, bold, and dependable.

But here’s the rub. Too many leaders are overly confident to the point of being arrogant. Arrogance is not an attractive or effective leadership trait. Arrogance leaves little room for God. Arrogance literally implies, “I have no questions.” There is a balance of having a healthy dose of confidence without being overly confident. We refer to this as humbled confidence. Humble confident leaders exhibit these characteristics.

1. Hero Making

Heroes are celebrated for their courageous acts, special achievements, and noble character. Behind every hero is at least one hero maker. Hero makers live in the shadows, often nameless, but faithfully embracing the role of supporting character. They seek to make heroes who make heroes who make heroes. They invest in others to see the full potential of others released into others. Hero makers do not need to receive the credit. Hero makers receive joy in equipping and sending others off to do the great things God created them to do.

2. Vulnerability

Humbled, confident leaders are vulnerable. They are not afraid to fail. They know that in being vulnerable to try new things, new faithful steps forward will be identified and successfully implemented. Being vulnerable means trusting completely in the possibilities. Vulnerability requires confidence, but if one is overly confident vulnerability can turn into recklessness. Vulnerability is knowing one’s self does not have all the answers and is secure in knowing this.

Knowing that being bold is required to be an effective leader even when one may fail leads us to humbled confidence with vulnerability. Having a healthy dose of vulnerability is an important attribute of a competent leader. A leader does not have to have all the answers but is willing to be vulnerable to risk in finding the answers.

3. Integrity

A humbled, confident leader is full of integrity. Integrity is being trustworthy and demonstrating ethics, morality, and worthiness. Integrity is doing the right thing even when people are not watching. Integrity reflects having a moral compass. Most people desire to be seen as exhibiting integrity. But some do not have self-awareness around their own sense of having (or not having) integrity. One simply does not know if you really have integrity until it is tested.

4. Inclusiveness

Humbled, confident leaders are inclusive and make sure all on the team are heard. They know how to include everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, or economic background. This keen ability to include and to stand up for the right of everyone to be heard and considered is what separates those who live in fear from those who stand for freedom and justice.

A wise mentor taught me to take time during meetings and seminars to have people turn to one or two other people to discuss the item at hand. You will get a much richer flow of information when you invite people to talk to each other during the meeting. The things that are left unsaid can then be brought into the room during the meeting rather than after the meeting in the parking lot.

5. Celebration

Humbled, confident leaders celebrate with their team. Because humbled, confident leaders are hero makers, they are quick to lift up others’ contributions and celebrate others’ accomplishments. They are quick to shine the spotlight on others. Credit for accomplishments and goal attainment is given to the team. Celebration is key to taking the time to smell the roses and provide kudos to create a spirit of collaborative teamwork.

6. Humility

We are simply all on a journey in loving God and our neighbor, and none of us has arrived. We are all on a similar path of knowing God, and knowing the mind of God (Romans 11:34), and knowing our brother or sister or enemy. Peter, after denying Jesus three times, grows into a humbled confident leader throughout the book of Acts. I have not arrived at complete maturity or knowledge. I am not there yet. I believe God still has something (many things) to teach me.

Why is this important now? A convicted humility gives us a way of living with conscience, amidst others who see matters of faith, worship, and justice differently. We call this the church, the body of Christ, which is both one and diverse (1 Corinthians 12:14).

7. Gutsy

Confident leaders are gutsy. They do not shy away from making the tough decisions. They are first to lead innovation. They are not afraid of failing. The leader who is both confident and humbled is able to effectively balance risk and reward. They also encourage those they work with to do the same. Humbled, confident leaders support innovation and risk-taking in their team. They are ready to be the safety net when those on their team fail, while also encouraging them to get up and try again. Great leaders are gutsy leaders who also encourage gutsiness in other leaders.

Excerpted and Condensed from Launching Leaders (Market Square Books, 2019) by Kay Kotan and Phil Schroeder. The book is available at Cokesbury and Market Square Books.

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About Author

Kay Kotan

Kay Kotan is the founder of You Unlimited, a credentialed coach, church consultant, speaker, and the author or coauthor of more than 35 books. She is a former Director of the Center for Vitality for the Arkansas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and served on the Missouri Conference's Healthy Church Initiative Executive Team. A recent book is Being the Church in a Post-Pandemic World: Game Changers for the Post-Pandemic Church (Market Square Publishing, 2021) available on Cokesbury and Amazon.

Dr. Phil Schroeder is senior pastor at Dunwoody UMC in Dunwoody, GA. Previously, Phil spent seven years on the Bishop’s Cabinet, where he served as the Director of the Center for Congregational Excellence. Phil taught Religious Leadership and Church Administration, as well as Evangelism, Preaching, and New Church Development as adjunct faculty at the Candler School of Theology. An author of several books, his most recent is his second with Kay Kotan, Launching Leader: Taking leadership development to new heights (Market Square Publishing, 2019), available on Cokesbury and Amazon.

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