The Self-Confident Leader

What is it about self-confidence that is so appealing?  

  • We are drawn to people who believe in themselves.
  • Confident people are simply happy with where they are in life and believe they are capable of reaching their goals.
  • Confident people seem to know what they want, and are not afraid to ask for it, or go after it.
  • They’re typically comfortable in their own skin and well-adjusted.
  • They have a sense of ease which is appealing.
  • They are not afraid to express themselves.
  • Confident people transform the energy in the room.
  • They are authentic, they do not try to be something or someone else.

Think about someone you know who is confident. What is it about that person that says confidence? Then think about someone you know who lacks confidence. What is it different about the two?

The person who comes to my mind that exudes confidence is my husband. Why? 

  • He is confident about his abilities and is comfortable with who he is.
  • He is decisive, takes action, and follows through.
  • He is a positive person and tries to find the positive in all situations.
  • He values integrity and honesty above all things.
  • He isn’t afraid to try new things. He sees it as a challenge and is willing to work to master it.
  • He doesn’t worry about what others think about him.
  • He has a positive energy that transforms the room.

How did he get this way? Part of it is personality,part is hard work and taking calculated risks, facing his fears and building upon his successes.

Self-confidence is:

  • an individual’s level of certainty about their ability to handle things.  
  • essential for the leader to influence collaborators, or followers.
  • the leadership trait that was most often identified in a 2002 study.
  • developed at an early age and is influenced by others, experience, our successes and failures, and how they are interpreted in our minds.
  • the level of general self-confidence that we each acquire in childhood remains fairly stable over our lifetime.
  • formed through our successes and failures, how others react to us and what we expect of our future performances. 

Axelrod in her chapter on leadership and self-confidence, discusses the idea of self-leadership to build self-confidence.  Self-leadership involves changing our way of thinking to believe in what we want.  She states:

“…after we fail at a task, most of us automatically berate ourselves, but if we practice self-leadership, we can observe that we failed only because it was a learning experience and assure ourselves that we will succeed next time…positive expectation helps guide our thoughts in a constructive direction and manage our emotions, so it helps builds task-specific self-confidence, which can enhance performance because people who believe they can perform well tend to do better than those who expect to fail…self-leadership may be the leader’s single most important skill, …to shape our internal life story to foster success…”


Take Risks: Leaders who are confident tend to have positive expectations and are willing to take risks. The willingness to take risks, along with believing in their own competence helps build success.

Our level of self-confidence also affects our willingness to complete a task when we fear failure. Those with a high level of confidence will adjust their goals to be more manageable and achievable.

Manage their emotions:  A leader who remains emotionally stable, manages his/her anxiety and anger during difficult confrontations, and focuses on constructive language will be more successful. This self-control will put the leader in a positive light. On the other hand, lack of self control can damage trust, commitment, and the leader’s reputation.

Are Authentic: When leaders reach a level of success and seniority, they may have to take a stand about their personal values, beliefs and principles. This may attract criticism and polarize people. When faced with harsh critics, the best advice is to ignore them if your decisions are ethical, and principle based. Don’t let them get in your head, if they do, banish them like you banish your inner critic. 

Takeaways to Build your Self-Confidence

Imaging/rehearsal: Picture the activity in your mind and what a successful outcome looks like. Rehearse what might happen, what might be said and how you might to respond to the scenarios your mind generates. This acts as a rehearsal for the real thing and prepares us for what might happen. Athletes and many who have life coaches or mentors, are coached to use this method to visualize success.

Constructive self-talk: Catch your inner self-talk to identify destructive patterns. Confront and silence the inner critic, boost your confidence, and reduce anxiety. Speak to your inner critic and tell it that it is wrong, it is a liar, you are going to send it for a time out, it is going to a parking lot, etc. A tip someone shared with me was to wear a rubber band on my wrist and snap it every time the inner critic started. Then call out the critic and re frame the thought to a more positive message. Catch it before it changes the message in your head.

Competence: Focus on what you do well; your competence and abilities. Avoid comparing yourself with others. Be proud of what you do well.

Eliminate triggers: Avoid negative thinking or spending time around things or people that can make you feel bad about yourself-anything that leaves you thinking you’re not good enough. Re-frame your thinking-change your mindset.

Bounce back from your mistakes: No one is perfect. Even the most confident people have insecurities, and there’s no one alive who hasn’t made a mistake. Don’t let one wrong turn, or even a few of them, make you think you don’t have what it takes to achieve your goals and reach your success.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you: Nothing is as powerful as people who think you’re great, who believe you can do the impossible, and who have all the confidence in the world in you. Surround yourself with those people and be intentional about maintaining those connections. Stick with the people who lift your perspective and avoid (or at least tune out) those who make you feel bad or doubt yourself.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Jim Rohn

Take pride in yourselfSome people think that taking pride in yourself means that you can’t be humble. You can recognize and appreciate who you are and what you’ve accomplished without being arrogant. Sometimes it’s the motivation we need when things get tough.

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Character – Integrity

Integrity is the consistency of character that people want and need in a leader. It gives followers confidence in the leader, it helps people understand and predict future actions, and it builds trust. How leaders deal with integrity on little things will indicate how they will deal with integrity on larger things.

What is integrity?

Integrity means following your moral or ethical convictions and doing the right thing in all circumstances. It means that your are true to yourself and would do nothing that would disgrace or discredit you. It is your moral compass.

Why is integrity important?

Common sense dictates that integrity should be a valuable leadership trait, and in fact many articles state that integrity is the most important trait.

Why does leadership integrity matter to followers?

If a leader walks the talk, it results in greater confidence in the leader. This consistency of character helps people understand and predict future actions. Those who don’t stand by their words, find themselves losing followers because they can’t trust the leader.

If followers don’t feel that a leader has integrity about a plan of action, they will ask others to confirm what they heard, and then decide what they will do based on the newer more reliable information

Trusted leaders are likely to have more engaged followers who are willing to go the extra mile for them.

Leaders with integrity err on the side of fairness, especially when other people are unfair. A true leader is fair even when they are not treated fairly.

High profile integrity disasters

Although cheating the system can result in short term success, it is built on lies and will not stand the test of time. It becomes a teaching tool in the form of a case study and lessons learned and, may result in more rules or regulations. Here are two examples.

Exxon-Valdez disaster

Exxon and seven other oil companies persuaded the town of Valdez to accept a tanker terminal by claiming that a major spill was highly unlikely.

When Exxon’s oil tanker spilled over 240,000 barrels of oil there was no immediate cleanup. The equipment promised for the cleanup was not available. When it became available, it cost $2 billion to cleanup and $1.8 billion for habitat restorations and personal damages.

In addition to the huge costs associated with this disaster, Exxon has also been accused of improperly dealing with human rights issue, influencing American foreign politics, and its stance against climate change. This company has faced scandals and dipping profits and has an unsavory reputation and has become a case study on integrity.

Operation varsity blues.

This is the university scandal in the United States, where wealthy parents were charged in a conspiracy to get their children into elite universities. There was cheating on admission tests and bribery of coaches to help students get into these universities. Some of these parents served and or are serving jail time and paid hefty fines.

We see the effects of integrity all too clearly in today’s world. Aside from the two examples above, with COVID taking its toll across the world, integrity is on full display

The pendulum effect

Trust is enforced in the market place through retaliation and reputation. Customers will eventually stop doing business with you, and your followers will stop listening to you, when you are unethical. They will seek out others who will deal fairly and honestly with them.

Has integrity become old fashioned and irrelevant?


For a while…

For whatever reason…  

But the pendulum always shifts to restore balance…

It turns out that there is something called the pendulum law or effect which is, ” the movement in one direction that causes an equal movement in a different direction.” The theory or effect states that trends in culture politics, fashion, values, tend to swing back and forth between opposite extremes. It is based on Newton’s Third Law of Social Motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

A sharp swing in one direction or another is due to some imbalance in the system or world, and the pendulum is trying to find the right balance to correct it.

So, a swing back in the other direction may be a move to the good old days. The nostalgia pendulum resurfaces about every 30 years because it takes about thirty-years for critical mass to build up. The masses are saying, we have had enough, we want a change, and we want the good old days back. Private vs public interests are realigned.

Is integrity old fashioned and not in step with today’s self interest and individualism? I would say no. In fact, google trends still shows that integrity and leadership continue to be important topics worldwide.


In my last blog on character, I spoke about how to work on traits to build a better you. No one can be your moral compass, that is your job. You will have to decide whether you can live with what do, and the person you become. If you are willing to compromise your integrity on little things, it becomes easier to compromise on the bigger things.

One small thing that I work on constantly is my word. If I say I will do something, I do it. This is important to me because it means that others can count on me to do and follow through on my promises. Of course, there may be times that unforeseen circumstances happen and make it impossible, but they are rare. Your word (promise) is indicative of so many other things about you like reliability, responsibility and credibility.

When others don’t keep their word, it results in more work for me, disappointment and distrust. How can I rely on that person in the future?

This doesn’t just apply to a work situation, but to personal lives as well. What about someone who needs you to help them move, but you are tired and don’t feel like it. They are stuck, scrambling to make sure that they can move out so someone can move in. Your tiredness has a ripple effect and has created a burden on your friend. What does that say about you?

Your word matters more than you think!

If you can’t or don’t want to do something, say no. It will avoid all the above. No, protects you and it protects the other person, and it preserves your integrity.

Unlike fingerprints that you are born with and can’t change,

Character is something that you create within yourself and must take responsibility for changing.

Jim Rohn

Leadership and Character

It is simple acts and decisions repeated over time, that build and define your character. It is your personal values and beliefs that show up in your leadership. Character is the foundation for leadership, it is the moral compass for how leaders lead and live life. Poor character is one of the reasons for leadership failure.

Watch your thoughts, they become words.

Watch your words, they become actions.

Watch your actions, they become habits.

Watch you habits, they become character.

Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

Frank Outlaw

Character the Foundation for Leadership

I love studying leadership and management. I devour books, scholarly articles, and business articles to soak up information on good leadership and management. I’m not sure why it fascinates me, but it does.

Originally, this passion set me on a search to find the perfect manager and the perfect leader. In fact, I went on to get my master’s degree because of that search and passion. I used to equate leadership with management, but they are not the same. You can be a leader without being a manager and a manager without being a leader.

I can honestly say that good leaders and good managers are hard to find. For the longest time I didn’t think they could co – exist. Now I do. I found that the qualities that make for a good manager are embodied in good character.

I also used to think that leadership only happened in a work environment, but I know better now. You can be a leader at work or outside of a work environment.

Character sets the foundation for leadership and is key to personal and professional success. Your character says everything about who you are as a a person and a leader – because we function from the inside out.

Your character has been developing since you were born. Your parents, family, teachers, friends, life decisions and media have helped to shape your character.

A person with good character is described as someone who has integrity, honesty, courage, loyalty, dependability, responsibility, truthfulness, conscientiousness and more. Someone described as having a bad character has the exact opposite traits.

The traits that make up the core of your personality are your personal value and belief systems – they are your character. So, whatever is inside of you, will eventually come out. It is who you are when you are alone and no one else can see your actions. It is simple acts and decisions repeated over time that build and define your character. A person acts according to their values. Here’s something to think about: what do you do with garbage when you are walking down a street? Do you throw garbage on the ground and keep walking, or do you throw it in a trash can? Or what about a grocery cart? Do you take it back to where the other carts are stored, or do you leave it where it is and it becomes someone else’s problem?

Character Matters

Character is so important in life, that many professions and trades will check out a person’s character before allowing them into their chosen field. Regulatory bodies will allow someone into a profession or trade if they are satisfied that the person will practice with decency, honesty, integrity, and in accordance with the law. If the person doesn’t have those qualities, they may never get into to their chosen field or they may lose their right to practice in that field. That is how important character is.

There are many examples where poor character has been found out and the consequences of that can be quite severe, for example, people may lose their job, their credibility and be publicly humiliated as a result. Universities have software to check on plagiarism. If you are caught plagiarizing, you can be expelled from university. I know of people who have lost a job because they lied on their resume. Some people call this karma, I call it the principle of sowing and reaping; if you sow dishonesty, be prepared to face the consequences of your actions.

Lack of good character is the biggest reason for leadership failure. Why?

Without integrity, it is hard to gain trust and be a leader

Without courage, it is hard to achieve your vision

Without emotional control, you lose credibility

Strong Leaders with Good Character

The world is crying out for strong leaders with good character. When I think of strong leaders, I think of someone who is calm and steady, who has integrity, empathy, and whom people want to follow. They don’t always have the loudest voice. They listen and ask questions. Even when those around them may be emotional, they remain calm. They know who they are. Their character is the foundation for their leadership, and it serves as the moral compass for how they lead and live life. They are the ones that inspire me to become better; they raise the bar on behaviour and performance.

I read an article that talked about Ben Franklin (yes, the same one who invented the lightning rod and electricity). This article talked about how Ben Franklin focused on one of 13 qualities he associated with character. Each week he would pick one and focus on it for that week to strengthen it. They were things like: humility, calm (serenity), honesty (sincerity), listening (silence). Although he didn’t always live completely by his values, he tried, and in the trying, he felt that it made him a better person, more successful and happier in life.

So What?

A while back, I was feeling out of sorts. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just didn’t feel right. I realized I was feeling the effects of cumulative bad behavior. I’d been through one rough patch after another, and I had started to take on some behaviours that I wasn’t proud of. Being around some really terrible managers exposed me to some nasty behaviours that I found myself imitating. Experts say that hurting people hurt others. It’s true. I was hurting and lashing out, I’d justify my behaviour by saying, “well they deserved it, or I don’t care what they think, etc., etc.”

The truth was that I cared. At the very core of my soul I wasn’t that person, and I was tired of myself.

So, like Ben Franklin, I decided to work on one character trait at a time. But, I did it differently from Ben, I did it for much longer than a week. I have been doing it for more than a year. My project was being kind. I am still working on it, and it is becoming more of a habit now. Like Ben, I’m not perfect and have to work at it because it takes time and patience. For me, kindness is the single most important character trait. It is a simple gift you can give yourself and others. A simple act of kindness can make a big difference in someone’s day.

I heard a speaker talk about homeless people. The speaker had many interactions with the homeless and said that the one thing that struck her, was that they felt invisible. No one wanted to acknowledge their presence. People would walk by and not make eye contact, they wouldn’t say hello, or smile. They told her that they just want to be acknowledged.

Kindness is a way of life. It lifts others up and it lifts you up. You may never know the difference an act of kindness will make, it can change a day, a week, or a life.

I resolved to do an act of kindness weekly, then twice a week. Now I try to do something kind every day. Yes, it takes time, effort and patience, but I remind myself, I can change my own little world one act at a time, and maybe make someone else’s day better.

Did it change me? Yes!

Do I like myself more? Yes!

Is the quality of my life better? Yes!

Are my relationships with people better? Yes!

What happened? I changed my inside thinking and my actions followed.

I have now moved on to my new character – building exercise – listening more actively.


Do you like who you are?

Are you feeling out of sorts?

Is your outer person aligned with your inner person?

Take a page out of history and try what Ben Franklin did, train yourself to be a better person – the person you will be happy with.

The small actions you take, and the motivations behind them, will define what kind of a person and leader you are.

The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude;

Be kind, but not weak;

Be bold, but not a bully,

Be thoughtful, but not lazy,

Be humble but not timid;

Be proud, but not arrogant; and

Have humour, but without folly.

Jim Rohn