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…”

Leaders

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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When Leadership and Humanity Collide

When you as a leader, believe the best in people, it produces powerful results – it reduces individual stress levels, increases loyalty and trust, and improves creativity. It is a safeguard to jumping to wrong conclusions about others.

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I wanted to end the 2020 year by sharing my experience about believing the best in people, compassion and leadership.

Here is my story: my stress levels had reached a point where I was having trouble thinking straight. I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this or not, but it really bothered me because I don’t normally react that way to stress. The stress had built up over time and I didn’t notice how much until I found myself with muddled thinking.

The first time this happened, I was working for the worst manager of my life. This manager labelled everything as URGENT!! This constant exposure to URGENT!! (the manger really did use exclamation marks), impossible deadlines, and poor management style created a stress response in me that resulted in muddled thinking and less than stellar work. If I didn’t meet the deadline, it was a big problem. If I met the deadline, but made a mistake, it was a big problem. This manager’s management style was to berate, humiliate and threaten staff. Needless to say that the strategy was not very effective and consequently people left. This is not leadership. 

The second time this happened, I was working for the best manager of my life. I was faced with impossible deadlines over a long period of time and I was sick. The result was stress, muddled thinking, and less than stellar work. The difference in the second scenario was the response of this manager. His response to me when we discussed it was, “I knew there was something going on with you.” This manager is good and kind, and he believed the best in me.  His simple response spoke volumes.  He knew that what was happening was not normal, and he gave me the space and grace to work it out. I was able to lower my stress level so that I could function normally again. This is leadership and speaks to compassion and believing the best in people.

By modelling behavior, my manager showed me what true leadership looked like. My manager, who is also one of the best leaders I have ever worked for, really does believe the best in his staff and trusts them. He has a genuine interest in his staff’s well – being because he knows that it affects the overall performance of his team and reflects on his management. Beyond that, he is a genuinely nice and kind person who likes people. 

A colleague, who was having a hard time at work with his manager, felt misunderstood and underappreciated, said “people go to work to do a good job and take pride in their work, they don’t go to work to screw up, frustrate a manager or hurt someone.” His comment reminded me that most people have good intentions in mind. When we assume that we know what others are thinking, this gets us into trouble.  Expectations and misunderstandings if not sorted out, will lead to hard feelings and dysfunction.

Real life examples

I have also been thinking about some people in my life that model “believe the best in others.” My Aunt Mary, who died several years ago, was outstanding in this category. She believed the best in people and had compassion for others, and she made me want to be the best around her. She was good and kind, and accepted people for who they were – I never felt judged around her.

I have a friend, Theresa, who believes the best in people and shows compassion when people are not themselves. When Theresa was faced with an unpleasant comment from a friend, Theresa responded with “I guess she has something going on in her life right now.” She could have gotten angry and started a good old – fashioned fight, instead she let it go and gave this person the benefit of the doubt.

What does the research show?

Compassion gives you more powerful results, here is why:

Physical Response:

An angry response increases the individual’s stress level when they are in fear and anxiety mode. Neuroscience shows that when people act as if they are threatened, their reasoning, mental and intellectual capacity is diminished. This in turn reduces productivity and creativity.  Brain imaging studies show that when we feel safe, our brain’s stress response is lower.

Increased loyalty and trust

In my last blog I talked about how humble leaders inspire feelings of warmth and positive relationships at work, these feelings spill over into employee loyalty and outstanding bottom line results.

A study by Jonathan Haidt of New York University showed that the more employees look up to their leaders and are moved by their compassion or kindness, the more loyal they are. So, if you are more compassionate to your employee, not only will he or she be more loyal to you, but anyone else who has witnessed compassionate behavior may also experience elevation and feel more devoted to you. Employee trust in turn improves performance.

We are especially sensitive to signs of trustworthiness in our leaders, and compassion increases our willingness to trust. Brains respond more positively to those who have shown us empathy, as neuroimaging research confirms. 

Loss of creativity

An angry response stops creativity by increasing stress levels which in turn makes people shut down

Takeaways

I learned from the real life examples above how important it is not to jump to conclusions, because misunderstanding happens very easily. Your assumptions about the person may be wrong.

Talk to the person. Whether you are a manager, leader, mom, dad, sister, friend, brother…, communication is a key skill to success. Use it. Maybe the person can’t talk to you about what is happening yet, give them space, but find a time to discuss it, because if you don’t, it can lead to further misunderstanding, fester and create other problems.

Calmly listening and talking it out, leads to better outcomes for both parties and it creates a sense of relief that things are out in the open.

When we believe the best in others, we get the best from others.

The truth is we don’t know what is going on in the lives of others, so why not give them the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t you want someone to extend that to you? Wouldn’t you want someone to believe the best in you even when you aren’t your best? YES!!!

I speak from experience when I say yes, I do want someone to give me the benefit of the doubt when I’m not at my best.

If what someone has said to you, or done to you, has offended you, either let it go, or talk to them about it, nicely! Chances are it was a simple miscommunication, and they will appreciate the opportunity to correct the misunderstanding. If you let it go, then don’t bring it up again or keep thinking about it.

We live in a world that is hard and judgmental and we have the power to make it better.  I challenge you to pay if forward and believe the best in others!

Powerful and Effective Leaders

Humility is a better predictor of performance and success than intelligence. Humble leadership means that you don’t believe your positive qualities and life achievements entitle you to special treatment from others and it doesn’t mean downplaying your strengths and achievements.

Humility and Leadership – What?

It doesn’t seem right.

Many people have a hard time wrapping their brains around the idea of a humble leader. Quiet leaders and powerful leadership don’t seem to mix. But here’s the truth, humble leaders are effective and powerful.

I asked my good friend Google to identify humble leaders. Here’s are some examples that Google gave me: Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, Warren Buffett, Mother Theresa, and more… but, not a lot more. Humble leaders are rare and are being sought after by organizations more now than before because of how effective their leadership is.

Humility: No special treatment required.

Humility simply means that you don’t believe your positive qualities and life achievements entitle you to any kind of special treatment from others.

This is different from the way many think of humility, namely that being humble means downplaying your strengths and your achievements.

Humility is a powerful force, because the humble leader will quietly, deliberately and steadily make a huge impact without fanfare. Many think that leaders who are bold and outgoing are the only type of leader and one who is quiet and humble is not viewed the same way; this is their superpower because they are underestimated.  

The test of humility: Psychology researchers Chloe Banker and Mark Leary, Ph.D., asked over 400 people to describe and rate their own accomplishments and positive characteristics. The participants were also asked how special they felt they were for having these qualities, and how they should be treat based on them. Lastly, participants were surveyed about their humility. 

What they found: Humble people didn’t think they deserved special treatment for their accomplishments and positive traits. They were pleased but were realistic about their skills and limitations.

Humility and academic performance

Bradley Owens a researcher on humility, examined the performance of 144 undergraduate students in a management course. The students were asked to rate one another on nine statements like:

This person takes notice of the strengths 0f others.

  • This person shows appreciation for the unique contributions of others
  • This person is open to the advice of others

These participants were tracked on their performance over the year. Humility ratings were found to be a better predictor of performance than actual intelligence. The humblest achieved better grades than those who had higher opinions of themselves.  Why? Because those with the greatest humility, identified gaps in their knowledge or skills and corrected them. They made the greatest improvements because they were teachable. Other research confirmed that humbler students were more curious and willing to learn. 

Humility and the leader, team and organization

Good to Great, author Jim Collins identified humility as key to great leadership.  His research has shown that leaders who have organizational transformation are quiet and deliberate in their approach. They have the following traits:

  • They think about the success of their company first.
  • They plan for succession.
  • They are modest and rarely like to talk about themselves or their achievements.
  • They prefer to share the credit with others. 
  • In times of failures they take responsibility.

In addition humble leaders have been found to be positively associated with job satisfaction, work engagement, retention, and empowering climates.

Bradley Owens and David Heckman discovered that leader humility helps to: inspire others to their highest levels, continually learn and adapt, foster a collective team humility, and improve the bottom line.  

Those who lead by example and model humble behaviour create a loyal team. This in turn leads to a team that acknowledges and appreciates one another’s strengths, is open to feedback and is responsible for their own actions.

Demonstrating humility – when theory and research meets life

Is humility learnable? I guess it depends on the person and what their own internal values are.  One thing I didn’t talk about was false or fake humility. People can tell if your humility is real or not and false humility will not have the same impact.

What is it that humble leaders do that makes them so successful?

  1. They serve others. They are focused on the goal, others, and the situation – not themselves. Humble people share the credit and wealth, they remain focused and hungry to continue the journey of success
  2. They build and nurture relationships and as a result, are likely to have better relationships because they are helpful and accepting of people.
  3. They actively listen to others before summarizing the conversation. They don’t try to dominate a conversation or talk over people. They’re eager to understand others because they’re curious.
  4. They’re continuous learners, they know that they don’t have all the answers and look for opportunities to learn.
  5. They speak their minds and if they are wrong, they are willing to learn and change course.
  6. They say, “Thank You” and are courteous and respectful of others. They practice good manners and civility. 
  7. They have an abundance and gratitude mentality; there is plenty to go around whether it is opportunity, money or business, and it takes communication and working with others.  
  8. They accept feedback and constructive criticism because it is the way to improve.
  9. They assume responsibility and don’t blame others.

They ask for help because they know they don’t have all the answers.

So what?

So, what…Don’t discount the humble leader!

Humility is a better predictor of performance and success than actual intelligence.  It is closely associated with other positive qualities such as sincerity, modesty, fairness, truthfulness, and genuineness.

Something to think about:

Who comes to mind when you think of someone who is humble?

How effective are they?

How do you feel when you think of them?

Can you be sometimes humble and sometimes not?