Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


The Relationship Between Principals’ Confidence, Humility, and Effectiveness: A Study of Teacher Perceptions

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Patrick Pauken

Second Advisor

Jeanne Novak (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

William Joseph Friess (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Paul Johnson (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Rachel Vannatta Reinhart (Committee Member)


Humility in leadership has received growing attention in both the popular press and academic journals in recent years. A number of studies have asserted, based on theoretical or conceptual analyses, that humility plays an important role in effective leadership. However, there is a paucity of empirical research on the relationship between humility and leader effectiveness. Moreover, the literature is virtually devoid of studies of the relationship between humility and confidence, an attribute demonstrated by numerous studies to be linked to successful leadership. The purpose of the present study, then, was to empirically examine the understudied relationships between leader humility, confidence, and effectiveness, as measured by follower perceptions.

In this study, 137 teachers from K-12 educational settings completed a survey designed to measure teachers’ perceptions of their principals’ behaviors. The Confidence scale was comprised of two subscales (Task Confidence and Leader Efficacy); the Humility scale was comprised of three subscales (Teachability, Appreciation, and Self-Awareness); and the Leader Effectiveness scale was comprised of Transformational Leadership and Outcomes of Leadership. Results revealed strong positive correlations between the three primary variables and their subscales. Next, ANOVA findings showed that confidence and humility interacted in their effect on leader effectiveness. For leaders rated as having medium or high levels of confidence, leader effectiveness ratings increased as humility levels increased. Similarly, for leaders rated as having medium or high levels of humility, leader effectiveness ratings increased as confidence levels increased. However, the same pattern was not found for leaders rated as having low levels of either confidence or humility. Lowest effectiveness ratings were found for leaders rated as having high confidence-low humility. Interestingly, no principals were rated as having low confidence-high humility. Multiple regression analyses revealed that confidence and humility significantly predicted leader effectiveness and both of its subscales when demographic variables were excluded from consideration. When demographic variables were entered into the analyses, however, confidence failed to predict Outcomes of Leadership.

Overall, results provided strong support for the importance of humility as an attribute of effective leadership. The findings have potentially important implications for leadership practice. Current leaders may enhance their effectiveness by examining the extent to which they demonstrate humility. Leadership development programs and leadership selection processes may also be improved by including increased emphasis on the value of humility.