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  • Writer's pictureMaria Wade

Owning Your Expertise: The Power of Balanced Leadership

Hello to all my dedicated readers and aspiring leaders,

In my previous articles, I've delved into the topics of Humility and Confidence, crucial contributors to the concept of Executive Presence that I'm exploring. Today, I wish to share my insights on another vital facet of your executive presence, one that I believe truly deserves our attention.

Reflecting on my own path, I recall several turning points that significantly influenced my personal development. At one stage, I was motivated by Robert Kegan's theory of adult development to achieve the "Self-Transforming mind" stage. This stage represents a level of consciousness where one is open to multiple viewpoints, able to hold contradictions and integrate them into complex yet coherent thought structures. Guided by humility, I intentionally swung my pendulum away from arrogance. However, I soon learned that the pendulum had swung way too far.

Feedback from that period painted a picture of me as indecisive, passive, aloof, and seemingly lacking the confidence necessary to inspire trust. Unintentionally, I had let go of my expert voice. Even my performance as a coach suffered. By presenting my clients with unlimited choices and a multitude of paths, I lost control of the coaching process, a control which was indeed my responsibility to maintain. In essence, my expert voice had dwindled.

One particular coaching session stands out in my memory, an encounter that delivered an insight so powerful it felt as though a lightning bolt of realization had struck both my client and me. I was coaching an SVP from a globally renowned financial services firm who was wrestling with the same dichotomy that I had faced. Much like me, he valued intellectual humility. But something felt amiss. It became clear that an excessive demonstration of humility could induce indecisiveness, a tendency to overemphasize details, and an instance of analysis-paralysis. This behavior fueled perfectionism, which, in turn, made the leader excessively cautious. Instead of inspiring his team and driving them to succeed, his behavior left them feeling confused and uncertain.

The Pitfall of Extreme Humility

Extreme humility, while often lauded as a virtue, can become a pitfall if it results in passivity and indecision. You may find yourself overanalyzing every detail and drowning in the complexity of decision-making. Rather than sparking confidence in your team, this behavior can unintentionally transmit a signal of leadership void and directionlessness, potentially dampening your team's performance and morale.

Benefits of Owning Your Expertise

Now, let's discuss why owning your expertise is so vital. Firstly, it broadcasts credibility. People naturally gravitate towards and trust those who demonstrate profound knowledge and expertise in their field. Moreover, when you confidently own your expertise, it radiates assurance, which in turn has the power to influence and inspire others, cultivating an engaged and motivated team. Needless to say, as experts, we bear a responsibility to own our expertise. In fact, it would be somewhat reckless to abandon it. This confidence is not just an ornament; it constitutes a crucial part of your Personal Leadership Brand, your reputation, and your capability to motivate others — all of which are integral facets of your Executive Presence.

Finding Balance

Take it from me, humility isn't about shying away from your talents or making your expertise invisible. It's really about being clear-eyed about what you know and can do, and yet, not getting complacent about it - acknowledging that there's a world out there you still need to discover. It’s all about maintaining equilibrium. It's like walking a tightrope. On one side, you're showing your team the ropes, leaning into your experience. On the other, you're learning new ropes yourself, keeping your ears to the ground, growing every single day.

Strategies to strike this balance might include actively seeking feedback, making room for self-reflection, and being open to alternate ideas and viewpoints. This kind of balanced leadership not only enhances your credibility but also encourages an open, collaborative environment.

Stepping Up with Confidence

Gaining confidence is often a journey, not a given. It’s interwoven with acknowledging and leveraging our personal expertise. Let's shift our perspectives: see every new experience as an opportunity to learn, to apply our skills, and to evolve. Rather than being obstacles, challenges become growth accelerators. Mistakes aren't signals of incompetence but are valuable lessons in our growth story.

Your ability to make decisions also influences your confidence. Leadership often involves making calls that may not be universally liked, but when they're thoughtful, informed decisions, respect will follow.

Owning Your Expertise Responsibly

It's crucial to remember that owning your expertise is not about overshadowing others or disregarding their input. I encourage you to use your expertise to foster growth for yourself and others, inspire confidence, and drive success. Be generous with your expertise. Choose to be a light of knowledge that illuminates the path for others, rather than a spotlight that blinds them.

As I wrap up this blog, I invite you to reflect on your habitual behavior. Do you own your expertise, or do you tend to hide it behind a veil of extreme humility?

Increasing your self-awareness about these aspects is a worthwhile goal for long-term development, and one that coaching can significantly help with. By seeking the guidance of a coach, you can gain valuable insights into your strengths and areas for growth, and work towards striking that perfect balance between humility and confidence.

Owning your expertise is a journey, a continuous process of learning, growing, and improving not just a responsibility; and it's indeed your responsibility. And it's a journey well worth embarking upon, as the rewards — in terms of personal growth, team success, and organizational impact — can be truly transformative. Happy journeying!

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