Confidence in leadership is vital to your success.  Developing as a leader requires many things, but being self-confident and inspiring confidence in others are two critical components that cannot be overlooked.  This article will cover the basics of confidence in leadership in addition to how to gain and promote it throughout your career.

Confidence

There are two sides of confidence a leader must develop and continually improve in, the inner and the outer.  Both are complementary of each other.  Let me explain.

I will refer to the inner as self-confidence and the outer as inspiring confidence.  One simple definition of confidence is full trust.[1]  Self-confidence is believing in yourself and knowing that you are capable to accomplish whatever you set your mind to do.  Inspiring confidence is both instilling full trust in you from others and trusting them in return.  This motivates them to achieve their own levels of self-confidence.

Inner and outer confidences build upon each other.  Have you ever been around a confident leader and felt it in yourself?  Confidence inspires other confidence.  It’s contagious.  In the same vein, however, a lack of confidence erodes trust in yourself and others.  If you are not confident in your own abilities, how can you expect other people to be?  If this is starting to sound like a vicious cycle, you’re right.  So then, how do you gain and build confidence?

Build your own value –

There is no way to get around this.  To build your own self-confidence and to inspire trust from others in your abilities, you must build your own sense of value through experience and education.  This is a continual process.  As you gain experience and learn more, you will become more confident.

Remain calm and cool –

Everyone has stress, but confident leaders manage it well.  Stress typically carries a negative connotation as we most often associate it with an overwhelming feeling of pressure caused by external stressors such as personal problems, increasing workloads, and short deadlines.  Not all stress is bad, however.  Managing our response to stressors not only affects our level of confidence, but will also affect our health and well-being.

You can find many books and articles on the subject, but some great ways to effectively manage stress include the following:

    • Eat well, limit caffeine and alcohol, and exercise regularly
    • Manage time effectively by scheduling time for work, family, and personal enjoyment
    • Delegate and learn to say no (more on this later)
    • Breathe deeply in stressful situations
    • Limit distractions and don’t try and multi-task
    • Manage personal finances like you manage professional accounts – use a budget and stay within it
    • Find your emotional happiness (spirituality, companionship, etc.)

Understand that learning to remain calm in emotional situations takes practice.  Unfortunately, you cannot learn this skill without actual stress being present.  That said, remember to not act immediately when faced with a stressful situation.  Take a breath, evaluate all options, and make a rational decision.  If you need more information, seek it before acting.

Dress for success –

I use this phrase to encompass all aspects of your physical presence.  This begins with your physical fitness.  While you don’t need to be running marathons to be an effective leader, your confidence will grow as you become more physically fit.  You will begin to carry yourself better as well.  Improving your posture is a huge boost to self-confidence and largely noticeable to those around you.  Stand straight, walk purposefully, and pull your shoulders back with your head high.  Leaders who carry themselves with excellent posture, exude poise.  The clothes you wear are important too.  You do not need to spend a fortune on them, but if you take care of the clothes you have (wear clean clothes, iron them when needed, polish shoes, etc.) it will be evident that you care about yourself and can pay attention to detail.

Speak publicly –

I don’t recall where I heard that one of the greatest fears held by most people is public speaking, but it seems to be true in my experience.  I used to be terrified to speak publicly and I still get nervous standing up in front of a group of people to speak.  This is normal.  Having the ability to speak publicly is important for two reasons.  First, it will add to your overall confidence level.  Second, you will most likely need to do it in your role as a manager, so it would benefit you to learn how to do it effectively.  The best way to learn how to speak publicly is to take a course (this can be formal or informal), practice with a mirror or a video camera, and then find venues where you can speak in front of people.  Try to be conscious of using filler words like “umm” or “like” and minimize excess hand gestures and pacing back and forth.  Public speaking gets easier with practice and you get better each time.

Be Decisive – 

A confident leader is not afraid to make decisions and understands that making mistakes is part of the package.  Know that you too will make mistakes, but understand that mistakes are healthy and that is how we learn and grow.  Own your mistakes and build on them.  Worse than making mistakes is being indecisive, paralyzed by fear of failure.  Just don’t make the same mistake twice.

In Summary

Confident leaders make all the difference.  You cannot hope to inspire others and motivate them to accomplish great things without confidence in leadership.  Please let me know your thoughts and anything you feel I may have missed.  As always, feel free to comment below or reach me at dan@learningfm.com.  Thanks so much for reading!

[1] “Confidence.” Dictionary.com. 2017. Accessed April 3, 2017.  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/confidence.

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