Why leaders are less confident than they think

By Heather Campbell

Right, you’ve got the message, I know!

The meta-skill that will underpin every one of your achievements in 2024 is confidence. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve shared 10 key confidence-building strategies with you so that you can get ahead of the game right away.

The thing is, despite the importance of confidence to every aspect of your success, there’s a big challenge to you taking your confidence seriously and making it a priority for personal growth and development.

You already think you have enough confidence to get you through.

Now, I don’t think you are lacking confidence totally. You wouldn’t have achieved everything you have if that were the case. But I don’t believe you have as much confidence as you think you have. That’s natural because you’re human (at least, I think you are 😊).

No, it’s because, like most leaders, you’re confusing self-esteem and self-confidence. But they are not the same thing.

Self-esteem is the belief that you are a worthwhile human being who has a right to take up your space on this planet.

Self-confidence is situation specific and, as such, it fluctuates. And it’s on those occasions when your confidence drops that the damage is done.

For this reason, I encourage you not only to recognise the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence, but also to build your awareness of the times that your confidence is low and make it a priority to work on strengthening it. Your career, your leadership and your results will thrive as a result. You’ll get more done, you’ll make better decisions and you’ll worry less.

I coach senior leaders from across a range of technical industries in developing the mindset, the skill-set and the process that enables them to enhance their confidence quickly when they need it.

Every one of them comes to me with a different need – some are being held back because they’re too aggressive, others because they’re too passive. Some are stepping forward with clear, focussed goals while others have lost their mojo and can’t see the wood for the trees anymore. And there are leaders who have failed to get that big promotion as well as those who have been catapulted into a shiny new role.

Every one of these leaders starts from a point of believing they have bags of confidence. They don’t realise the extent to which their lack of confidence is holding them back and even impacting others around them.

There’s the Managing Director who regrets not believing in himself sooner because it stopped him taking up an MD post ten years earlier.

And the MD who was so worried all the time that his team wouldn’t deliver that he became an aggressive micro-manager, all because he didn’t have the confidence to share his concerns honestly with his team.

And the CEO who was driving her Finance Director crazy because she kept interfering in his role (which she’d previously held) because she didn’t have the confidence to admit she wasn’t fully aware of the scope of her new role or how to ‘fill it.’

Every one of these leaders was blind to the damage that their lack of confidence was causing because they didn’t realise it was lacking. Of course, they were confident in many situations – but not being aware of the times their confidence was low meant that they also weren’t aware of how it was holding them back, distorting their behaviours and undermining results for others too.

Self-confidence is a vital attribute for every leader, and enhancing and fine-tuning it will bring sustained benefits, I guarantee.

As we come (almost) to the end of the first month in 2024, I wish you every success in the next 11 to come.

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