Confidence is the cornerstone of leadership. You can teach a leader to be an effective problem solver; more decisive; a better communicator; how to coach, mentor and hold team members accountable; and many other fundamentals of leadership. Yet, without that leader first believing in himself or herself, true leadership will exist only in title. A leader that is technically qualified for the position, but lacks confidence, will find it difficult to lead others. As Francisco Dao says, “Self-confidence is the fundamental basis from which leadership grows. Trying to teach leadership without first building confidence is like building a house on a foundation of sand. It may have a nice coat of paint, but it is ultimately shaky at best.”
Some people may think that leaders who are overly aggressive in their communication and/or leadership style have strong confidence. When taken to an extreme, leaders who are overly aggressive are even referred to as bullies. Interestingly enough, people with strong confidence do not have a need to be overly aggressive to get their goals accomplished. Being overly aggressive is actually a sign of a lack of confidence, not having strong confidence.
People like to work with leaders who are truly confident. There is a natural tendency to trust people more when they appear confident. For most of us, dealing with a confident person helps assure us that the person is also competent. Of course, you could argue that someone could be trusted, but not confident, or confident, and not trusted. This could be the case sometimes, but it’s not typical.
Generally, when a leader exhibits confidence, it makes it easier to trust that leader, and people want to work with leaders they trust.
In reality, self-confidence is a more important asset than skill, knowledge, or even experience. Without confidence, you will find it difficult to make tough decisions, lead meetings with authority, get people to communicate with you candidly, and be open to feedback, particularly when it is of the constructive type. Without confidence, you will second guess your decisions and find yourself becoming defensive, when challenged. Without confidence, you may find yourself sadly lacking in one very important component of leadership… followers.
When leaders exhibit confidence, they typically:
- Are happy: They feel positive about their ability to lead people and deal with daily challenges. The have a “can do” attitude about whatever comes their way. Their team members appreciate working with an upbeat leader who holds a positive vision.
- Have better relationships: They enter into positive, productive relationships. They feel good about themselves, treat others well and in turn, are treated well by others.
- Are motivated and ambitious: They set goals and are motivated to accomplish them. They believe that the work they do is important and makes a difference in the company or even the world.
- Laugh more: They can see the humor, even in challenging situations, and have the ability to put things into perspective. They also laugh sooner and more often.
- Are open to risks: Or at least calculated risks. They confidently forge into the unknown and learn from their mistakes. They are not safely mired on the sidelines, but in the thick of the play.
- Recognize success: Not only do they look for opportunities to genuinely recognize the success of others, they are also able to openly receive compliments, never discounting the sender by saying, “I was just doing my job.”
- Accept feedback: They welcome feedback from others and put their ideas into action. Because of their receptivity, people keep coming to them with feedback and ideas for improvement, helping the leader continue to grow and develop.
- Think for themselves: They have a deep sense of their core values – what is right and wrong, and although open to feedback from others, confidently form their own opinion or pick their own course of action. They are easy to follow, because their words and actions are in alignment and consistent.
Remember, it is confidence that separates average leaders from great leaders. Now that you see the role that confidence plays in leadership, ask yourself if you need to continue building your confidence.