5 Lessons Learned on Humble Confidence

“I cried so hard a few times I couldn’t see the screen.”
These were the words of Donnie Smith, former CEO, Tyson Foods, as he wrote the eulogy to celebrate the life of his close friend and coworker of 30 years, Dennis Leatherby. Dennis, recently retired CFO of Tyson Foods, passed away unexpectedly last week.

Do you want to hear something strange? I take notes at funerals. It’s the best time to truly learn the beautiful elements of a person’s life. And in between my tears, I took a page of notes about this amazing husband, father, marketplace leader and friend, Dennis Leatherby.

Dennis’ life was centered on bringing honor to Jesus. His focus was on having a positive impact on the lives of those around him. He was a true servant leader. He embodied two unique traits that are rarely found together in a leader’s quiver. But when they are, they elevate a leader’s effectiveness into having a lasting impact on those who knew him. Those two words? Humble Confidence.

Do you want to be a leader at work and at home who lives with humble confidence?

Here are 5 lessons we learned from Dennis Leatherby on “humble confidence”:

  1. It starts with Scripture.
    • Humble: “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.”  (James 4:10)
    • Confidence: “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
  2. Care deeply for people.
    • Be fiercely loyal to your team and company.
    • Mentor team members one-on-one, especially those who are early in their careers.
  3. Be purposeful in honoring God by living your faith daily and visibly.
    • God gave His best when he gave us Jesus, and we are obligated by that to give our best to Him.
    • Always put the TEAM ahead of yourself.
  4. Have courage to speak the truth powerfully, humbly, passionately and respectfully.
    • Speak the truth – all the time – every time.
  5. True legacy lies in the relationships you make and the lives you impact.
    • Are your most important relationships with Jesus and your family?
    • Do your actions support that priority?

Dennis Leatherby worked tirelessly. He led courageously. He sacrificed selflessly. He settled for nothing less than the best. He loved fiercely. He served steadfastly. He honored Jesus faithfully. He finished strong.

If you would like to learn more about humble confidence, listen to this 2013 Workmatters podcast from Dennis Leatherby. 

David Roth

Categories: Blog, Faith and Work, Leadership At Work
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  • Kim Glenn

    Well captured, David. As a young leader in Tyson Foods, Dennis shared some details about perseverance through his own career that have impacted me for several years. Later when I asked Dennis to share his story in a broader audience, he admitted that it was so difficult for him to be that transparent because of the emotional scars he suffered. I’m so blessed to know a man who was willing to suffer for someone else’s benefit and a leader who was wise enough to understand how to most positively impact others. He spoke to our larger team nearly 4 years ago and we still receive feedback that it was one of the best executives we’ve heard from!

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