Recently, I’ve been thinking about confidence. As we find our way out of the clutches of the pandemic, confidence is going to take over from resilience as the crucial attribute for leaders and the people they lead. 

If we do not have confidence, recovery from the ravages of Covid will be far harder and far longer. Consumer confidence, confidence in our political leaders, confidence in our business leaders, confidence in the safety of our workplaces, confidence in our job security…and confidence in ourselves and our ability to lead…confidence is key. 

Your role as a leader will also be critical to giving confidence to the people you lead. A decade ago, over the course of 12 months, I interviewed senior leaders to understand more about the role of confidence in their success. One of the key features that stood out time after time was that every single leader I interviewed had experienced crises of confidence at various points. When this occurred, they had looked to leaders they trusted to give them confidence. There are plenty of reasons for people to have a crisis of confidence just now. The people you lead are looking to you as their leader to give them confidence too.

That’s why, over the next few weeks, I’m going to share with you how to maximise your confidence as a leader and how to provide the leadership that will instil confidence in the people around you.

I’ll be exploring what confidence is and what it isn’t; how to build it and how to protect it; when it can be detrimental to our success; and what leads people to have confidence in their leaders. 

Right now, let’s start with thinking what confidence actually is. For something that is so central to the success of individuals, organisations and even whole economies, it’s surprisingly nebulous. Ask 20 people what confidence is, and you’ll get 20 different answers, all of which somehow still manage to be a fair reflection of this thing.

So, let me make something clear. Confidence is nebulous because it’s a concept, an idea we’ve constructed. It is not an objective reality. We talk about it as if it is, of course. We give it, we lose it, we have it undermined, it gets knocked, we fear other people have more it – and, for sure, think that some people have too much of it. 

And let me share the good news. Because it’s a concept, an idea we’ve constructed, there’s plenty of it to go around. You can maximise yours and it doesn’t mean anyone else has to minimise theirs in return. You can share it generously and still find you can have it in abundance.

Because confidence is a concept rather than a scarce resource, it’s yours for the taking.

And, because it’s a concept, to get it, all you need do is think your way to it.

Confidence in yourself fundamentally begins with what you think and believe about yourself. If you find that your confidence needs a boost, here are five key things you can do to build it up again.

  1. Remind yourself of relevant experiences and expertise you can use in this situation and remind yourself how you have coped with similar situations. In my research a decade ago, leaders told me that their confidence began with knowing they had the skills and experience to do the job.
  2. Talk to other people who believe in you – a mentor or coach, or a colleague – and ask them to help you find a way forward. Again, from my research, every leader I interviewed described the times they did not have confidence in themselves and had to ask others to give it to them.
  3. Get busy with learning from others – whether that’s reading or talking to people with relevant expertise. Leaders I work with often find that they need a flow of fresh thinking and ideas to re-boot their confidence. Sometimes when we’re stuck with our own perspectives, skills and ways of working, it’s a bit like stamping in a muddy puddle. The more we stamp in it, the murkier it gets. Fresh water helps to clear out the murkiness and gives us the confidence of greater clarity and new ideas.
  4. Be careful about the negative messages you give to yourself. Remember, confidence is nothing more than a concept – it begins with what you think and believe about yourself and your abilities in this situation. If you find your confidence gets low this week, ask yourself if you’re thinking your way into that state.
  5. Get enough rest. I know this is difficult with so much going on, but rest is crucial for confidence. When we’re tired our irrational fears grow and fear is the enemy of confidence.

More about no. 5 in my next article when I’ll also be exploring when lack of confidence is actually a useful early warning sign that you, as a leader, need to pay attention to. 

Do You Have Enough Confidence to Be A Leader?