Karin’s Leadership Articles

The Worst Reason Women Don't Get Promoted

by | Dec 14, 2015 | By Karin Hurt, Confident Humility |

The room was filled with successful, competent, middle-aged women. We’d just finished a powerful workshop where each of them had identified ways they could make a bigger impact in the their organizations, in the world and in the women leaders coming up behind them. Then over lunch, Laura turned to me and confessed, “Karin, I’m still having trouble with your confident humility model. I think most women have way too much humility and that actually gets in the way of their success.”

Of course, the whole point of my model is that it’s the balance of confidence with humility, but my point was not the point. I needed to hear her story.

They just filled a really critical role in our organization, and everyone was shocked. “We thought it would be you!”  I know I’m way more qualified than the guy who got it, and I could have added a lot of value. But the truth is, I didn’t apply. No one asked me to. I guess, I figured if they wanted me they would have asked.

She continued,

I don’t think we should be teaching women about the power of humility. I think we need to get them to learn to believe in themselves and tell others why they should believe in them too.

And then several other women chimed in with similar experiences. One C-level exec shared her observations.

I think the problem is that many women look at the long list of requirements on a job description and think “Shoot, I’m missing one, better not apply.” Whereas a guy is more likely to say, “Ha, look at this, I’ve got all but one nailed, I’m a shoe-in.”

As I listened, I thought about the many roles I have taken on in my career that were really a stretch. On paper, I was completely under-qualified for these cross-functional assignments. What was the difference? Why did I exude that “masculine” audacious confidence that made me believe I could be successful without the experience?

And then it hit me. Much of that confidence came from the fact that one time, one senior leader convinced me I should move out of HR and take on a field role for which I had no experience. He told me he had “no doubts” that I would be successful. So I put my hat in the ring and was hired. He was right.

The next time, I didn’t need any external convincing.

Humility has nothing to do with selling yourself short. Humility is about knowing the mission is bigger than you. For goodness sake, if you’re the best person for the job, don’t stand back and let someone else take the helm.

And we all need to be on the lookout for women and men, who might need a little extra convincing.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

4 Comments

  1. K. Kai Anderson

    Dear Karin –

    This was a particularly powerful statement (quoted below) and a good reminder to anyone inclined to self-doubt…

    “I think the problem is that many women look at the long list of requirements on a job description and think “Shoot, I’m missing one, better not apply.” Whereas a guy is more likely to say, “Ha, look at this, I’ve got all but one nailed, I’m a shoe-in.””

    Thanks for the article!
    K. Kai Anderson

    • Karin Hurt

      Kai, thanks so much! So appreciate you joining the conversation.

  2. LaRae Quy

    Loved this article, Karin.

    Why does anyone need to be asked to throw their hat in the ring? If a person knows this new position or job can take them where they want to go in their career, neither male nor female need to be “asked” to put in for it. It sounds more like a lack of confidence than anything to do with being female or male.

    Humility is thinking about yourself less—not thinking less of yourself. That is an important distinction….

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much, LaRae. I so agree with you. And, that’s my favorite definition of humility 😉

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