Enduring and meaningful leadership is about so much more than having the authority to give orders and set direction — in fact many of the best leaders exemplify humility, respect and honest self-evaluation. Yet they still believe in themselves and the decisions they make. Many of my clients are stumped on how to build self-confidence, without trying to “throw their weight around” as many leaders try to do. If you’re looking to boost your self-confidence, read below for some of the tips I share when I’m coaching.
1. Practice self-examination
When you’re confident and comfortable with yourself, failure and limitations will seem less intimidating. It might seem counter-intuitive that examining one’s mistakes can increase confidence, but the act of objectively looking at failures can be quite liberating and uplifting by banishing the uncomfortable and the unknown with objective reflection. When you see failure as a way to learn, grow and change, you can banish the worry and unease that it might re-occur. There might still be mistakes in the future, but you can face them knowing that they, too, will be opportunities to improve. Facing your failures with a curiosity and a willingness to learn can quickly build self confidence in leadership.
2. Exercise your influence
In my career, I’ve often seen a willingness to use (or misuse) authority mistaken for actual confidence. Using demands, threats or intimidation to compel others might yield short-term results, but it’s not sustainable and is more often the crutch of those who feel most insecure. Confidence is gained when what you say matters not because you’re in charge, but because your knowledge and expertise are valued and listened to for their own sake. Good leaders climb the ranks because of their skills at lower levels; believe in yourself and your body of knowledge. Participating fully in your organization’s decision making, from early discussion to post-mortem lessons learned is how to build true confidence. Leveraging your experience rather than simply exercising authority is key.
3. Motivate others
As important as exerting your influence at work, is developing your skill in motivating others to achieve results. Few things will help you feel more grounded in yourself and your expertise than sharing your vision and having others drawn to your way of thinking. Self-confidence in leadership comes from inherently knowing that when you speak, others will listen. This can’t be achieved by forcing others to do your bidding, but by truly believing that you’ve built the relationships and experience to have others naturally follow when you set a direction. Build your confidence by developing your gravitas – the calm, open demeanor of a leader who both speaks and listens with respect and humility. When others are drawn to your ideas, your confidence will bloom.
4. Embrace personal development
Great leaders are always life-long learners, but courses and reading are only the beginning of personal development. To truly integrate your understanding and build your leadership confidence – whether it’s in leadership or elsewhere – you must apply the teachings and gain experience. You’ll find that when you put the practices you’ve studied to work in your organization (or your personal life), your confidence will grow. You will feel more grounded in “who you are” as a person with each lesson you absorb and apply.
5. Improve your workplace
Most of us want to be known as good at our jobs, but even more so, want to be known as good people. It’s strange but true that the act of making our corner of the world a better place can have a strong and lasting impact on our confidence. Working with colleagues to improve a process, reduce barriers, increase teamwork or enhance morale can be incredibly validating to your confidence and sense of self-worth. Want to work on yourself? Work with others for the good of others, and you’ll feel your sense of personal value soar. When you’re dedicated and committed to who you are as a person, you will be far more resilient and your self confidence in your leadership will continue to grow.
Confidence comes from an unshakeable sense of self, which requires consistent and continued dedication to your values, goals and personal self-worth. There will be times you have doubts, make mistakes or even question your skills, especially when your growth has taken you to new and less familiar levels of visibility and responsibility. When you stay focused on your personal vision and stay true to who you are as a person, your confidence will keep you moving forward to success.
Executive coach Joel Garfinkle provides executive coaching to help companies build a pipeline of leaders who can excel at the management level, and he is the author of 11 books, including “Executive Presence: Step Into Your Power, Convey Confidence, & Lead With Conviction.” Subscribe to his Fulfillment at Work Newsletter or view his video library of more than 200 easily actionable, inspirational, two-minute video clips by subscribing to his YouTube channel.
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