Humility is overrated – Has it hurt your career?

Ah, the delicate balance of confidence and humility.


Blow your own horn

Leadership Traits

You'll often see traits listed for great leaders that include a lot of "power" behaviors. Being confident, decisive, and taking charge. But, then you'll see humility listed as well.

It varies by culture (and perhaps occupation), but we sure do send mixed messages!

Seize the day, but good things come to those who wait.

The meek shall inherit the earth, but only the strong survive.

Proudly be yourself, but the nail that stands up is hammered down.

Build a personal brand, but don't blow your own horn.

Red gummy bear stands out


After decades of observing who gets promoted, the careers that tend to skyrocket, and who succeeds in business, I think those who do not move up have often erred on the humble side of caution.

Cultural Differences

I was raised in a culture that told me to work hard, do good work, and it would be recognized. But, that's only true to a certain extent. And, it assumes an enlightened and observant boss.

I have observed way too many talented people lagging behind in their careers relative to people who were less talented, yet better at promoting their work and getting noticed. There are too many bosses that are happy to get great work out of humble people who don't dare to ask for raises or promotions.

It's about finding a balance, of course. You don't want to be seen as a bragging, arrogant, self-promotional jerk. But, you also don't want to just sit back and hope that your great work will be noticed.

Finding a Balance

The best way that I can describe that balance is to be personally humble, yet confident and proud of your work. 

Promote the work, what you can do, and how you can help others, vs. promoting yourself.

Find ways to highlight what you are doing so that it is clearly noticed.

Always give credit where credit is due though, which means that you clearly call out the team and all contributors.

Take opportunities to write and speak, so that people can get to know you.

Be Visible

In the end, it may really be about visibility. I think people often misinterpret humility and think that they must never be proud of their work, speak of their accomplishments, or be confident about their talent.

But, my interpretation of humility is that you realize that you don't know everything, you know that you aren't immune to making mistakes and sometimes being wrong, you listen to others at all levels, you are open to learning experiences, you remember where you came from, and you are thankful for others who were a part of your success.

Be humble, be confident, and shine a light on your work so that it is highly visible and lets people see what you are capable of doing.

Hoping that someone will notice your great work just isn't a very effective way to advance your career.

Do great work, and confidently let the world be aware of you and your accomplishments.



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