Leaders must consciously build their confidence – here’s why

By Heather Campbell

On 1st June this year, Francois-Marie Dibon became the Guinness World Record Holder for completing the most bungee jumps in 24 hours. A quite astounding feat which saw him completing a jump approximately every two minutes. Achieving 700 jumps, he smashed the previous record of a mere 430.

To realise his goal, Dibon had to overcome a childhood fear of heights, deal with motion sickness and spend 25 hours a week in the gym. He also had to build a strong (and, in this case, undoubtedly highly trusted) team around him: “Without me there is no record (but) without the team I will do only one jump.”

I love his honesty and his modesty here. But I still admire his achievement most of all. Yes, of course team support was essential but, come the moment of that jump, the confidence to leap had to come from Francois.

It’s the same for you, in your role as a leader. Of course, to perform at your best, you need to have a great team around you – that isn’t just your direct reports. It’s your boss and colleagues too. Our research into confidence highlights the importance of others in giving the leader confidence. And unsupportive bosses, colleagues and team members play a big role in undermining it too.

But, ultimately, there are tough decisions, difficult messages and lonely moments of doubt that you personally have to face. And the more senior you are, the more often this will happen. The CEO is often the most isolated role in any organisation.

In those moments, it is your confidence that must stand the test.

Confidence is often seen as the one ingredient that differentiates the winners from those who took part. Ask any winning sports person and they’ll name that moment when self-doubt cost them dearly. Equally, they’ll tell you how confidence, at that crucial point, gave them the edge that brought victory.

As I’ve analysed my work with leaders, and my own experience of leading others and of running my own business for over a quarter of a century, I have come to believe that confidence is a primary attribute that leaders need to consciously develop, and yet it is rarely seen on any leadership development agenda.

Indeed, ask most top leaders if they lack confidence, and the immediate answer will often be a resounding No. But scratch just a little below the surface, and the times when they find their confidence falls are easily evident.

The micro-managing leader, the defensive leader, the aggressive leader, the fault-finding leader, the insecure leader, the hesitant leader, the inconsistent leader….at the root of all these leaders lies a lack of confidence.

Take a look at that list again – can either you or I honestly say we haven’t been every one of these at some point in our (potentially recent) past? Now reflect on that and ask yourself what was challenging your confidence in that moment?

Most leaders need to build better self-awareness and more skilful self-management when it comes to maintaining a steady state of confidence, no matter what is happening around them or to them.

In next week’s email, I’ll share some examples to highlight the surprising ways focussing on consciously building confidence transformed results, and exactly what these leaders did so that you can follow their example.

For now, I’d simply ask you to notice those times when your confidence is challenged in the week ahead.

What is the challenge?

What impact does it have?

And, this week more than ever, observe yourself and others with interest and learning, not with criticism and judgement. It will do wonders for your confidence!

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