Leadership is easy and even interesting to talk about in the abstract. We read stories of remarkable leaders — fortune 100 generals, presidents, CEOs — making bold statements, deftly navigating a crisis and motivating people to act. And we admire them.
We have an almost romantic notion of what leadership should look like and what situations call for strong, clear guidance and direction.
For most of us, however, we are called to drive differently — run departments, develop new products, or get our teams on the same page to execute a work plan. We face leadership challenges weekly, if not daily. And just because we’re not on the battlefield or in the news, these challenges are still high stakes for us because people, money, and time are on the line. We know it’s our job to get the most out of these precious resources, and we want to be good at it.
Understanding the connection between leadership and self-confidence
Feeling confident as a leader can be elusive. You want to feel confident, but it’s hard to feel confident when there are so many variables. Self-confidence also takes a hit when your leadership decision or action does not achieve the desired result or causes a negative reaction. You can go around in your head, second guess yourself, blame and regret, and then finally go back to figure out what went wrong and how to improve.
So, whether you’re in the thick of a challenge right now or you know it’s bound to come, what can you do to feel more confident?
1. Define what leadership is to you
Deepen your understanding and definition of what leadership is. You can read biographies or articles from executives in your industry. You might reflect on past experiences and note times when you observed good or bad leadership. What behaviors align with your values? Which one doesn’t? There is no one-size-fits-all definition. Leadership styles are personal and reflect your values and strengths. Make it clear what it is.
2. Better understand your strengths
Build self-awareness by specifically focusing on your strengths. This starts with simply asking for and listening to feedback. Ask a range of people who know you from different roles or periods in your life. Are there common themes? Are you thoughtful and thoughtful in your decision-making, for example? Or are you nimble and quick to respond using your gut?
3. Help others be successful
When building our leadership skills and confidence, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being focused, even obsessed at times, with ourselves. Helping others be successful is a great, productive way to demonstrate leadership, learn more about what works for you, and support someone else. Helping others, however, requires an upfront discussion about what help they want or need. Leaders do not impose themselves on their team members without engaging them first.
4. Build a network of other leaders
Build a network of other leaders at all stages of their development. One of the most helpful things we can do when growing our confidence and building a strong identity as a leader is to surround ourselves with other people who are doing the same thing. Look at your immediate circle. If you are not focused on leading colleagues and friends, consider how you can spend more time interacting with people who face the same type of challenges. Not only will you get concrete ideas on how to deal with them, but you will also begin to change and upgrade the way you think.
Most of us drive in ways that are not glamorized in popular fiction. Because we don’t see our everyday selves in these leadership models, it can be difficult to translate the lessons into something practical. We must take concrete, intentional action to be competent, responsible stewards of the people, money, and time in our care. By following these four steps, you can quickly increase your ability to manage and excel as a leader.