Think about your favorite duos: peanut butter and jelly, Batman and Robin, Simon and Garfunkel, or perhaps Jordan and Pippen. Each pair works because its individual members complement one another's strengths and weaknesses.
Another strong pairing that doesn't get nearly as much attention? Humility and confidence.
By itself, Root CEO Jim Hauden argues, each trait tends toward excess. "It is often my experience that leaders that are confident are not humble," Hauden writes. "And on the flip side, those with humility are not confident, even to the point of constantly seeking reassurances to validate their leadership.
Unfortunately, overconfident leaders see humility as a weakness or inadequacy. In reality, humility helps you see your blind spots, own up to your mistakes, and develop your problem-solving skills.
Similarly, overly humble leaders may mistake confidence for arrogance. Nobody wants to be around someone who believes they're the smartest person in the room, but some degree of self-confidence is important. Self-confidence promotes motivation, resilience, and courage.
What's the solution? A healthy balance of humility and confidence. Here's how to achieve it:
1. Train your emotional intelligence.
Experts agree that emotional intelligence is important for productivity because it promotes self-motivation and emotional regulation. Those qualities also make it an excellent tool for improving your confidence without giving your ego the reins.
Fortunately, there's no shortage of ways to build your EI. Start small: Reflect on how you respond to your own emotions. If another driver cut you off in traffic, did you grit your teeth and move on, or did you add to the danger by striking back? Observe your emotions, think before you act, and be open to others' criticism.
2. Practice gratitude.
Saying "thank you" helps us recognize all the good others contribute to our lives, explains Vicki Zakrzewski, education director at University of California-Berkeley's Greater Good Center. "Very simply, gratitude can make us less self-focused and more focused on those around us--a hallmark of humble people."
Gratitude generates humility, but believe it or not, it's also a great source of self-esteem. Gratitude means "appreciating all of your qualities, attributes, and abilities," a Pick the Brain article notes. Being grateful results in more meaningful relationships and produces a greater sense of belonging -- both of which build self-confidence.
3. Stop pointing fingers.
My team lost because the referees made bad calls. My business failed because customers don't know what they want. My career is stagnating because my boss doesn't care about me.
Whether it's valid or not, blame is corrosive. By pinning your problems on others, you de-motivate yourself to solve them. On top of that, you show everyone around you just how fragile your ego is.
Take the advice of Gary Vaynerchuk: Don't point fingers. Own your role in bad situations, and embrace what they can teach you. Self-accountability is necessary for growth, leadership, and all-around human decency.
4. Develop a growth mindset.
Stanford research shows that each of us approaches life with either a "fixed" or "growth" mindset. Those with a fixed mindset think things like intelligence and talent are set in stone. Growth-minded people, in contrast, believe they can cultivate new skills and traits through their actions.
Regardless of how you currently approach life, you can look at it through the lens of growth. Reflect on and accept your imperfections. Frame challenges you encounter as opportunities. Take risks, celebrate when they pay off, and be grateful for their lessons when they don't. Above all, appreciate the effort behind the talents you and others possess.
It's time for a reality check: You're not perfect. You don't have all of the answers. But you're also strong enough to face uncertainty, learn from it, and become a better version of yourself.
That's the balanced mindset you should shoot for. Maintain it, and you'll discover how powerful confidence tempered by humility can be.