The 6 Powers of Healthy Self-Doubt

It’s astonishing to see the confidence of leaders who oversee failure and still believe they have answers.

Unchallenged self-belief produces intolerance.

The problem of unchallenged self-belief is seen in arrogant politicians, interventionist news media, and over-confident leaders.

In complicated situations and turbulent times, the person with easy answers is an idiot.

The difference between knowing how to find an answer and having THE answer is openness.


In complicated situations and turbulent times, the person with easy answers is an idiot.

“The best bosses dance on the edge of overconfidence, but a healthy dose of self-doubt and humility saves them from turning arrogant and pigheaded. Bosses who fail to strike this balance are incompetent, dangerous to follow, and downright demeaning.” Robert Sutton

The 6 powers of healthy self-doubt:

  1. Valuing relationships.
  2. Opened ears. Listening has value to those who need to learn.
  3. Closed mouths.
  4. Preparation in the face of challenge.
  5. Humility of heart – openness of mind. A little self-doubt prevents you from looking down on others.
  6. Learning to trust others.

Self-doubt is healthy when it raises intensity, motivates preparation, and inspires vigilance. It’s unhealthy when it paralyzes you.

Believe in yourself enough to bring self-doubt with you into decisions and commitments.

“The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it’s not without doubt but in spite of doubt.Rollo May

Too much self-doubt blocks progress, prevents connection, creates anxiety, and inspires self-centeredness.

Responding to self-doubt:

  1. Move forward in spite of self-doubt.
  2. Create deadlines as motivation tools.
  3. Develop partnerships that bolster courage.
  4. Adopt an ‘adapt as you go’ approach.
  5. Focus on what’s next and less on final outcomes.
  6. Seek input.
  7. Commit to decisions.

A little self-doubt serves leaders well. Use it. Don’t lose it.

What value do you see in healthy self-doubt?

How might leaders navigate tension between self-doubt and over-confidence?

Self-esteem check: Too low, too high or just right? – Mayo Clinic