Leadership / Direction / Confidence

Leadership Moment — 27 Jun 23

Confidence ≠ Right. Evaluating a leader.

Mark McMillion
4 min readJun 27


Screen capture from https://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/shallon-stranger-awareness/2752556

My son challenged me today. He’s 15 and like that. He’d stumbled across a Saturday Night Live skit and shared it with me. It’s about a very confident schoolgirl named Shallon who gives guest star Edward Norton fits. Hilarious! Watch it here.

We were laughing and I joked I should use it in my leadership training. He said if I led with that, he’d be interested. Let’s see.

In the video, Shallon doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind and assert what she thinks is right. I think most of us have encountered that at work. In this context, it makes for an extraordinarily funny set piece. In the real world, it can lead to disaster.

People find self-confidence attractive, in both a romantic and a leadership way. I’m not ugly but I’ve never been particularly handsome either, yet my wife, who was stunningly beautiful in college, found something attractive in me. She called it swagger one time but what she really meant was self-confidence. There’s a line between self-confidence and arrogance and I was able to stay on the right side of it. Most of the time.

A popular piece of advice to young leaders is to fake it ’til you make it. I’ve heard that many times and actually done it once or twice. It’s sound advice but not always. So how do you know when?

When people are facing a serious situation such as combat, layoffs, bankruptcy, etc., they want to be led. They want someone to show them the way ahead. Sadly, this makes them somewhat vulnerable to con men and charlatans as well. Shysters know this and that’s why they prey on people like widows.

On the positive side, it’s also why leaders need to show confidence in tough times. Remember, there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence welcomes questions and provides explanations for actions. Arrogance doesn’t. Arrogance wants unquestioned obedience and loyalty. Arrogance asserts rightness in the absence of knowledge. Confidence recognizes unknowns but is committed to figuring it out.

Faking it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) mean lying to people about what you know or can do. It does mean that you believe…



Mark McMillion

Retired Army officer with two tours in Baghdad, married with four kids. Proud West Virginian and West Point grad. Works available on Amazon.

Recommended from Medium