Understandably, what’s top of mind right now for most people is the impact of the pandemic, getting a vaccine, the new administration, and the many uncertainties that lie ahead.
In light of this, one leadership attribute which gets put on the back burner is the importance of confidence. Yet, having confidence is key to successfully doing just about anything. It lets you know that when you take off, it may be an adventure, it may be bold and scary, but you know you’ll land it.
a) How we feel, including our enjoyment of work and feelings of autonomy and agency
b) How we act, such as how assertive we are, how we seize opportunities and face risks
c) Our relationships and ability to engage with people
d) How we communicate. For example, if you lack confidence, you are less likely to speak up in meetings or may use a high voice or giggle which reduces your credibility.
With confidence, many hard things seem possible. Without it, taking care of business, let alone the next bold step, is almost impossible. A leader who doesn’t demonstrate confidence in what they say and do — which of course is different from arrogance and intimidation — might as well implement a succession plan immediately.
Three Things to Remember
1. Confidence is not a sideshow.
Many studies show that having confidence is highly correlated with being successful. People with confidence are more willing to take reasonable risks, take advantage of opportunities and be given opportunities.
2. Lack of confidence can be exhausting, frustrating and depressing
Yet, lack of confidence isn’t something you can easily talk about with your colleagues or your friends.
3. You may already be confident, but, there are people around you every day, including supervisors, close colleagues and friends, who are not.
Raising your awareness of how others may be feeling will make you a better leader, a better colleague, and a better friend.
The Four Behavioral Traits of a Confident Person:
Most people can’t swallow a teaspoon of cinnamon, sneeze with their eyes open or wiggle their little toe. If you cannot do these things now, you will never be able to. The good news is that confidence can be learned.
1. People who are confident have a growth mindset.
They believe strongly in the power of effort, that people are born to learn and that the mind is like a muscle — the more you work it, the more effort you put in, the smarter you become. Effort matters! Carol Dweck’s excellent book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, explains this with compelling research.
2. Confidence requires that we have the courage to act.
People often think of courage as being strong or macho. But courage is what allows people to do things even when they don’t feel strong. This short video embodies the idea of taking action despite fear and is worth watching.
3. A confident person has GRIT.
Grit is not just about working hard or having self-discipline. It’s about working in a deliberate, focused way over a period of time in pursuit of a goal. Colonel Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, had grit. At age 62, he set out with $105 to pitch his chicken recipe to restaurants. Over 1,000 people told him he was crazy, but he didn’t give up. That’s grit! See Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit, The Power of Passion & Perseverance for research on the value of grit.
4. A confident person has self-compassion.
We live in a success-oriented, achieve-the-next-big-thing world and tend to think of failure as abnormal. But setbacks are part of being human. We misstep on a pitch for a new client, we lose an argument in court, we misread an important change in the market or fail to stay calm. The key lesson is to learn from our mistakes and move on.
Like the imposter syndrome, confidence can come and go. It affects people of all types, all ages and all backgrounds, including people in the C-Suite. If you’re feeling a general lack of confidence, it’s worth paying attention to it. You can and should work to develop it and let your best shine through. Success in your work and in life comes in many forms and — with confidence — you’re much more likely to achieve it.
I am an executive coach who works with clients on leadership and transition challenges, including retiring with enthusiasm and ease.. Read my bio.