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It has long been said that for people to believe in their leaders, the leaders must be seen to exhibit a strong degree of confidence in themselves. Francisco Dao, a speaker on organisational performance and strategy, describes self-confidence as the fundamental basis from which leadership grows. As he puts it in his Inc. article, Without Confidence, There is No Leadership:
Trying to teach leadership without first building confidence is like building a house on a foundation of sand. It may have a nice coat of paint, but it is ultimately shaky at best.
It takes more than competence
Leaders are now expected to inspire their team through a world of complexity and uncertainty, to unite them, and give them drive and great purpose. Without confidence, this will never last. Over a hundred years ago, William James, a psychologist teaching at Harvard University, wrote that the reason so many people never fulfil their potential is not because of a lack of intelligence, opportunity, or resources, but because of a lack of belief, or faith, in themselves.
Leaders that show up and seem anxious and insecure, or seem to have some self-doubt, won’t be perceived favourably because people think they are a liability, regardless of their actual level of competence and skill to do the job. Those that are competent can tick all the boxes and get the job done.
They have the ability required for the role, the right level of skills, the right level of knowledge, and the right capacity. However, being competent in their job is no longer enough.
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Step 1: Believe in yourself
Leaders must be able to cultivate a culture of confidence in their team and everyone around them so they too believe they can do whatever it is they are expected to do. That means leaders everywhere, in every industry or role, must first have confidence in themselves and their own leadership ability. In order to cultivate confidence in other people, leaders must first believe and have confidence in their own ability to weather the storms, to perform well under pressure, to learn from mistakes and bounce back, to create and innovate, and to keep raising the bar and driving higher levels of performance.
Step 2: Build others up
A study done by professor of business at Harvard Business School, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, compared companies and sporting teams that had long winning streaks and long losing streaks. In the Harvard Business Review article, Cultivate A Culture Of Confidence, where she discussed some of her findings, she argued “self-confidence, combined with confidence in one another and in the organisation motivates winners to make the extra push that can provide the margin of victory.”
She explained that the lesson for leaders is to build the cornerstones of confidence and maintain a culture of confidence. Surely, doing so will ensure that, when faced with the inevitable downturns in performance – whether in politics or an organisation – leaders will be much better placed to champion everyone through the change.
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