How Successful Leaders Self Promote

March 23, 2018 / Comments (76)

Humility is the true key to success. Successful people lose their way at times. They often embrace and overindulge from the fruits of success. Humility halts this arrogance and self-indulging trap. Humble people share the credit and wealth, remaining focused and hungry to continue the journey of success.

Rick Pitino

My senior year in college I was working on a team based video project. Unknown to me, a couple of the people decided that they were going to take credit for the whole project and trash the rest of the team. When the grades came out we found out that the professor had given those two people an A for the class and the rest of the team a D. I made an appointment with the professor in order to explain my participation in the project and see if I couldn’t get my grade changed.  After he heard me out he agreed to raise my grade to an A.  As I was about to exit his office he said something that has stuck with my ever since. He said, “If you want to be successful you have to blow your own horn because no one else will.”

Logic tells us that in order to be promoted into a leadership role, to be recognized as a leader with people inside our company and known as a leader externally with our clients and community, we need to promote ourselves. Fellow coach James Stith, of the Leadership Academy, recently posted a video on this topic. (Check it out on FB at Blue Phoenix) He claims that not promoting ourselves is one of the biggest mistakes that leaders make.
However for many of us, especially women, there is a very real push/pull feeling about promoting ourselves. Promoting our self can feel like bragging and maybe, like me, your mother or a teacher told you that, “No one likes a show-off.” And quite honestly, that’s true. People don’t generally like working with braggarts.

So how can we promote ourselves as leaders and not be the braggart. The easiest way for me to explain is to share an example of what it sounds like to promote ourselves as a braggart versus a leader.

Effective Self Promotion for the Business Leader
Let’s say that it’s your turn to share your credentials with a potential client or perhaps a board of directors.
The braggart says: “I am proud to say that this year I completed a project that helped my client to increase their sales by more than 10% during the holiday season.
The leader says: “I am proud to have had the opportunity this year to lead a fantastic team who put aside their differences and worked closely together in order to complete a project in 9 months rather than the usually 12 months. The fact that the team implemented the system ahead of schedule allowed our client to increase their holiday sales by more than 10% over last year.

To me the difference is clear. When we are bragging it’s all about the “I”. When we are being the leader we are bragging about our team which reflects back on us in a positive way.

Self Promotion for the Consultant, Coach or Entrepreneur
But what if we are a ‘leader of one’ – in other words, we are an independent consultant or business owner.  How do we keep from being the braggart when we promote ourselves to potential clients?
The braggart says: “I am proud of being able to say that I have helped dozens of women leaders in technology to improve their leadership and communication skills and to become strong leaders in their industries.
The leader says: “I am proud of the fantastic women leaders in the field of technology whom I have had the privilege to coach. They have taken on the challenge to grow their skills in communications and leadership so that they can be the strong leaders in their industries that they are meant to be. In addition it is a thrill to me to know that through their leadership they are helping to increase the number of women working in the field of technology.

Can you see how focusing on our clients removes the potentially negative impact of self promotion?

When Is  a Good Thing Too Much?
There is only one thing I would warn you against and that is, taking this thought process totally to the other extreme and, not including yourself in the picture.

Sometimes when I have a conversation with a client about promoting themselves as a leader they say something like, “I believe it is important as a leader to be humble so I always promote my team or my clients rather than promoting myself.” I agree with my client that humility is a wonderful characteristic to possess. Where I may differ in is the definition of humility.

Many people think that humility means that we should always express a low view of our importance compared to the input from our team or our clients. The problem with that interpretation of humility is that when we give all the credit to the team or to our clients, and leave out the role that our leadership plays in our successes, we can generate as much of a negative reaction as being a braggart. It’s what can be referred to as false humility. This interpretation of humility creates a sense of either not being transparent or not confident and can set a subtle but very real barrier between us and our listeners.

It seems to me that there is a paradox in thinking that this definition of humility will lead to being a great leader.  Isn’t it true that we want our leaders to be both transparent and confident?

What I would suggest to you is that a more valid definition of humility recognizes that we are not greater than or less than our team members or our clients. In sharing our participation in a success, as well as the participation of our team, we express true humility.

Do you wonder if you are promoting your leadership skills in a way that builds confidence without bragging or acquiescing? If you are not sure and would like to have some constructive feedback then contact me and let’s have a virtual conversation about how you can

connect to your power,


Last modified: September 20, 2018

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How Successful Leaders Self Promote

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