Qualities of a Leader Worth Following: Humble Confidence

Recently, our team has been discussing what makes a leader worth following. Joe Boyd, our CEO, noted the quality of humble confidence.

As I pondered that quality, I remembered Jim Collin’s concept of Level 5 Leadership in Good to Great. Jim describes Level 5 leaders this way:

“Level 5 leaders display a powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will. They’re incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the cause, for the organization and its purpose, not themselves. While Level 5 leaders can come in many personality packages, they are often self-effacing, quiet, reserved, and even shy.”

I just passed the big 5-0, which means I have experienced a lot of leaders in my life. Coaches. Teachers. Pastors. Presidents. Most of those leaders have been good. Some have been bad. I think only one has been a Level 5 Leader. 

He runs a non-profit organization in my city. He has incredible ambition for his cause, but he would be perfectly content if no one ever knew his name.

Good to Great was released in 2001, a few years before social media began (Facebook 2004, Twitter 2006, Instagram 2010).

I don’t think the principle of Level 5 Leadership or humble confidence has changed since the advent of social media. I do, however, think it’s harder to do. It is so tempting to chase the dopamine hits of likes and retweets. 

I know I have fallen into the trap of wanting the applause of the network. At the same time, I know that’s not what matters.

So I will do my best to remain ambitious for the cause, not worry about who gets the credit, and share any success with the great team members around me. 

Thanks for being a leader worth following,

Brian Rutherford


Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is Director of Content and Product Strategy for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

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