Self-esteem and self-worth are a matter of attitude about one’s value to loved ones and the community. If a person also has a strong sense of humility to go along with healthy self-worth, then the stage is set for a very effective leader. Confidence, self-esteem and humility combine to make space for a growth-minded person (to use Carol Dweck’s term).
This morning I had the privilege of joining a group of leaders convened at an excellent Social Enterprise called Working Wardrobes. We were there to learn about the operation and perhaps offer a few suggestions for how to further their mission, which is: Helping men, women, and veterans find the job they love. I found this to be an enlightening, informative, humbling, and heart-warming experience.
As part of the facility tour, we saw images of homeless people, felons, and veterans who were down and out. Those images then transformed into well-dressed men and women with a confident and joyous smile—a smile that clearly showed a sense of self-worth. The leaders at Working Wardrobes stated that the smile we saw on so many transformed faces was what their product is—providing a sense of self-esteem and confidence in the future.
As I thought about the observations and offered suggestions from my colleagues, I realized that everyone at the table was a successful business leader. Some were retired, some still actively engaged, and most were already giving back to the community in one way or another. It struck me that everyone at that table exhibited self-worth. Not flashy, not attention-grabbing, not at all a “me first” attitude, but a rather quiet confidence that acknowledged their self-esteem. Each person offered suggestions not in a competitive manner, or tone that indicated someone was making a mistake or missing an obvious solution, but rather in a spirit of “wondering if you have thought about . . . ”
As I looked again at the images, I saw the transformation from a reactionary person being victimized by external forces to a self-confident leader shaping their environment. Some of it was the clothes provided by Working Wardrobes. Many studies show that while the clothes don’t make the woman or man, they can change her or his self-image and the impression made on others. And it was more than clothes. It was the fact that someone else saw a person worth helping. They saw someone worth spending time with, worth sharing experiences with, and worth bringing into a network of peers.
I saw leaders in the transformed images. And I’m sure, regardless of the level of the position each person eventually filled, they were now confident leaders with a healthy sense of self-worth. Yes. A leader has, among other attributes, a healthy sense of self-worth, just like the business leaders sitting at the table this morning.