The Leadership Balance – Stop Giving Yourself Away

leaderI have the absolute joy and pleasure of working with amazing individuals who change the course of companies, industries and employees’ futures through their leadership. They are admired, decisive, respected and the epitome of what future leaders aspire to become.

I have found an interesting correlations about CEOs, CIOs, CFOs, COOs, Directors, Founders and Executives from various industries who are the most influential and impactful leaders; they all have one thing in common: they absolutely stink at talking about themselves.

No kidding.

These professionals can command a boardroom and mesmerize, engage and electrify thousands of employees at company meetings, but asked to talk about themselves – it is a whole different story.

They are humble, but in a horrifyingly dismissive way. There is a time and a place for modesty. When creating a brand strategy or positioning yourself for a new challenge and direction, that is not the time nor the place.

There seems to be an overall preemptive approach that they assume – they do not want to come across as cocky, arrogant, a know-it-all etc.

There is a difference between cocky and confident.

Cocky is telling everyone that you are the best, without verification, proof or demonstration.

Confident is telling people what you do and the value it brings allowing them to make the connection and know you are the best because you have proven yourself through demonstration.

I have the conversation often with executives about presenting themselves without diminishing their value. They give themselves away boosting their teams yet costing them their identity and value.

Not too long ago, I was talking to an executive and I pointed out that he was falling into this trap. He said he never made the connection, even though he recently had an interview in which he boasted about his team and the interviewer replied, with a bit of exasperation – “I’ve heard enough about your team, what did you do?”

Talking with another client, he mentioned that he did not want to appear that he did everything in the company and was fearful that if asked about specifics of lower level positions, he would not be able to answer because he did not do the day-to-day work.

I told him that as a leader, he created the vision and strategy; he drives fruition by putting the right people in place and overseeing the implementation.

As a leader, you are not expected to complete all the day to day tasks, that is what your team is for; you do not even oversee the day to day management of the tasks, that is what your management team is for; you are the leader.

Leader: lead·er ˈlēdər noun: the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country

Executive: ex·ec·u·tive iɡˈzekyədiv adjective: having the power to put plans, actions, or laws into effect; noun: a person with senior managerial responsibility in a business organization.

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” ~ Ronald Reagan

The balance of telling your story as an executive leader is knowing your strengths and your value. Part of your strength is knowing what you do not or do not need to know and what you can delegate, this is when putting the right team in place is important – and that is another value that you add.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” ~ Jack Welch

Leaders build people. They mentor, they identify and motivate and they do this on a continual basis. They create succession plans for positions, companies and individuals. Leaders give and by giving they grow and create greater value.

“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” ~ Peter Drucker

Leaders know their clients and have a passion for value and profits. To provide greater value, you need greater revenue streams to give more, achieve more and be of greater relevance. They take calculate risks, make hard decisions and know the landscape to turn the clichés of “we can’t do that” or “it’s never been done before” into realities.

It is admirable to want to give credit where credit is due, and yes, it should be done; however, not at the expense of your value as a leader.

One executive that I coached told me he knew what he was good at and he knows what he is doing. When I asked him why he is not telling that story, he told me it sounded like bragging. I told him two things:

1. If you tell the story of what you do, how you do it and the value that is received then you are not bragging, you are simply stating facts.
2. If you do not tell your story, who will?

The leadership balance is between complete modesty by giving away or diminishing your value and stating you are the be-all-end-all without demonstrated substantive evidence. Meet yourself in the middle to remain true to yourself and position yourself as the leader that you are and that people want leading their company and their teams.


I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

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